Nona Garcia’s paintings acknowledge the painted image as a product of transference between source and surface. The artist has persistently explored this line of enquiry since the early 2000’s as indicated in her diptych entitled “See Saw” (2000). The painting illustrates a chainsaw wrapped in cloth paired with its more intrusive counterpart: an x-ray of the same object mounted on light box. What was apparent in this pivotal work was the artist’s willingness to take on ontological concerns seldom tackled in figuration, specifically the painted object’s inherent physical properties vis-à-vis its transformation through representation. In this past work, which now serves as foreshadowing to the present, the painted object is situated as a thing both ‘hidden and seen’ through dual channels of depiction, thus exploring both its essence as image and as an object that occupies our sense- perception, particularly our desire to know what lies beneath.

The nature of representational painting is once again problematised through Garcia’s new set of works, which follows the same direction of inquiry about the thing represented and an underlying reflection on representation itself. In acknowledging what is for the artist the true process of painting— essentially appropriating an object from the known world and applying its image on a surface from essentially the same source—Garcia suggests a commonality that engages conceptually beyond the limits of the ‘painting as illusion’ while simultaneously embracing the same mode.

In Planted, Garcia once again attempts to synthesise the image/object divide – the thing represented against its presentation in actuality, through illusionistic painting reminiscent of trompe-l’oeil techniques. By using wooden veneers as a substitute for conventional canvas, the painted images, achieved by applying oil on wood, invite us to reflect immediately upon the attributes derived from their physical existence. The objects depicted—a carved reindeer head, a toy rifle, fruit and leaves, a broomstick, indigenous utensils and relics—are derived mostly from the same organic source which is wood, or the substance of trees. This implies a beholden intimacy, a union that brings us to a kind of natural cycle which is able to co-opt the processes of painting.

With this new series, Garcia transcends beyond the painted image and incorporates the qualities of the surface itself. The wooden surface provides its own unique grain, which in turn becomes an attribute to the form—a part of the composition as a whole. This quality of being ingrained—of depicting wood on wood, of representing the substance alongside its physical organic qualities— serves as a pledge in order to reveal further ‘truths’ via painting.

The show Planted could be seen as a testament to the materiality of painting; in presenting something which could also serve as “real” beyond mere illusionism or photorealism. In another large-scale work, Garcia paints a pile of branches in the middle of the Gobi Desert. The question “what is real” now becomes “what is possible,” as the towering structure of twigs and brushwood appear unaccounted for, arising out of nowhere—without signs of any nearby forest. Planted. Which in another context could also allude to a setup, or a hoax, tempting the viewer to believe the possibility of such a scenario, with the artist serving as its instigator: conflating the possibilities of illusion and disillusion within painting.

Nona Garcia was born 1978 in Manila, Philippines. She studied at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, QC College of Fine Arts and holds a BFA, Major in Painting. Garcia lives and works in Manila. The Philippine artist recently staged the solo exhibition “Recovery” at the Bencab Museum in Baguio City, Philippines in 2014. Selected institutional group exhibitions include: “Passion and Procession: Art of the Philippines”, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (2017), “5th Anniversary Special Presentation: Revision I”, Mind Set Art Center, Taipei City, Taiwan (2015), “Prague Biennale”, Prague, Czech Republic (2009) and “3rd Fukuoka Triennale“, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan (2005).