Last Saturday, I attended the opening of Elaine Roberto Navas' show called Flower Arrangements. Her works are beautiful and moving.
At first glance, you will be attracted by the beautiful colors made with strong thick strokes, rendering the semi-wilted flowers still pretty.
And then I saw this piece--
This work evoked such strong feelings in me, I couldn't look away. The placement of the vase, it's depth, the red roses-- all making me think of love and grief at the same time. Maybe it is my recent sudden loss of a loved one making me extra-sensitive to the elegance of these dying blooms. This piece is enthralling and it made me tear up.
It was not until a few minutes later, after chatting with Elaine and telling her of my feelings, did I find out that these are all flowers from a crypt she visits. That's when it all fell into place for me and my tears fell. Cut flowers have a special spiritual significance in death because of their own fleeting existence. The beauty and life you want to desperately hold on to, despite knowing how in time, the inevitable can't be avoided. With the flowers we offer for the dead, we give our respect and appreciation and we petition for peace and purity for our beloved's soul. "Flower Arrangements" is Elaine's tribute and prayer.
Elaine is such a prolific artist. Her show is not to be missed. It's on til April 25. West Gallery is at 48 West Avenue, Quezon City. https://www.facebook.com/WestGallery
I post here the official show write-up by Ms. Lena Cobangbang.
Excavations from the Shanidar Cave in Northern Iraq in the 1950s by the team of American archaeologist Dr. Ralph Solecki has revealed from the several burial sites found there that the arrangement and placement of flowers around the dead is humankind’s oldest tribute, the oldest form of memorialization, the oldest act of mourning, deeming as well the subject of human burial as the world’s oldest form of religious activity.
Further, soil samples from these dug graves, upon closer study by French paleobotanist Arlette Leroi-Gourhan, showed at least 8 species of wild flowers from found pollens and flower arrangements, leading her to conclude that someone from 62,000 years ago had roamed the mountainside in the mournful task of collecting flowers for the funeral tribute.
Whether this was done as motivated by the protocols of a ritual or from the practical function of hiding the stench of decomposition of a dead body, these no doubt provided for a means to convey what was inexpressible for such loss, seeding man’s capacity for sentiment and symbolic language, or the first footfalls into sublimating the vicissitudes of mortality. As a flower is cut from its stem, its life is hastened, picked at the peak of its blooming, it foreshadows its inevitable demise, reverberating in this allegorical pageantry the transitory cycle of existence, none more eerily evinced in the juxtaposition of the abject body with the object of beauty, the putrid and the pulchritude.
In Elaine’s hands, these floral arrangements are painted so with robustness, each furrow, each spindly stem, each rumpled petal so fleshed out, bearing the weight of their plodding slide to withering expiration. Painted in the stilted median of past their prime and their slow crawl to their shriveling shell, these articles of tribute, are equally memorialized, or are they rather painted to placate as the more lasting offering for the unknown departed for whom these flowers were originally meant for? Or is their transformation into painted pictures allegories themselves as to how we perceive and respond to nature and the conception of art itself? That to show the limits of things as idealized forms only then can we grasp at the abstractness of phenomena such as tragedy, beauty, awe, wonder, and all other unquantifiable portents of consciousness.
with Mariano Ching, Jonathan Ching, Yasmin Sison-Ching, and Ms. Elaine Navas
at Gallery 1 of West Gallery