Rain Libiran — "Black Rain"
14 October 2011 — 04 November 2011
Having commissioned by the parishes in Bulacan to have works done for their churches, Raymond "Rain" Libiran has undeniably mastered the structure and form of the altar's Romanesque arches and pillars and the angles and curves of the anatomy of angels and saints. He initially worked on oil on canvas but later on employed ballpoint pen. His careful treatment on details is manifested in the faces of the people, the drapery of their clothing, and the gears they are wearing. His attempt on a three-dimensional approach to the works is obviously visible through his intricate shading ranging from dark to light strokes. He may have moved to a different media, but he no less incorporated the same concept and imagery.
However, the works included in this exhibition, Black Rain, did not include visions of angels and saints, but a seemingly chaotic group of people. He dispersed different types of people throughout the canvas in a theatrical manner where students in school uniform, half-naked manual laborers, clergy, women clad in Filipiniana, and bululs in sleeveless shirts and shorts coexist with famous people and icons like Michael Jackson, ET, Gundam robot, Pope John Paul II, Roman soldiers with an unlikely peace sign in his chest, and even the angel of death. His altar niches are still present, enclosing a group of people which supposes man's existence in a troubled world — where everyone else is focused on his/ her own survival, unmindful of other people's struggles in spite of their near distance to each other. This reflects man's utter greed and egoism.
Libiran extended this discourse in his chess works where pieces were brought to life, given faces, human characteristics, and cultural identity even. The pieces were determined by the clothes they wear, the armor and tools they possess, and the stance they assume. The idea of power and greed is highly tinted in this set of works as compared to the altar feast, as chess is a game of battle and survival, thus elaborates man's hunger for power and dominance.
These chess pieces however, pertains to the power of a collective, more appropriately, a kingdom, wherein each piece plays a vital role in correspondence to the game. But each piece's significance is relative to its capabilities, thus exhibiting differences in social classes. There are key players which possess most power yet their safety has to be ensured. There are of course, smaller men, which have to serve and be sacrificed in order for the higher ranks to survive and protect the royalty. This reflects an evident political situation and power relations between the nobility and the peasants, the difference in castes and kinship. This is indeed a way of life unknown to many, masked by the norms, exposed in subtle ways.