In the seminal works of Julie Lluch, the stories of the land and people do not run skin deep but course through our very blood. Vignettes of Lluch’s life gather with accounts of the country’s recent and distant past in an epic retelling of the story of the Filipino people.
Presented during Women’s Month, Lluch’s Chronicles on Skin invites viewers to engage with questions of identity and representation, emphasizing the role of the gendered body as a conduit for unapologetic, uninhibited self-expression. Among the few prominent female artists working in the country today, Lluch’s trenchant storytelling pushes the boundaries of figurative sculpture and painting back against the repetition and revision of history, the decline of truth, and the erasure of cultural identity, amplifying many like voices from the margins of society.
The spoliarium cast anew, Lluch presents a spectacle of mangled bodies—of stolid torsos and flexed limbs—each bearing the imprints of history. The surface of the skin is troubled, marked by memories of injustice, inequality, unrest, and violence.
As she grapples with the grim realities born of these entanglements, Lluch’s brushstrokes are incisive, her colors triumphant, as she tells the stories that mark and make us—a testament to her unwavering fortitude and ideals in mythmaking. A palpable vitality emanates from her life-sized forms which twist and turn in vigorous contrapposto: the body poised in resistance, the artist insists on the individual’s capacity to determine one’s narrative.
There is a poetic beauty to Lluch’s forms, each embodying a certain fluidity and grace that at the same time reverberates with emotional intensity. In the apparent stasis and repetition of the country’s strife and struggle, entrenched in the ongoing narratives of colonialism, imperialism, and feudalism, Lluch presents bodies still writhing to survive. That the artist is among the most noted members of the artist alliance RESBAK (RESpond and Break the silence Against the Killings) resounds in the pastiche of history and myth splayed out across the skin of these anonymous forms, echoing memories of disappearances, extrajudicial killings and the relentless slaughter of freedom fighters. Amidst this, the lyricism of Kerima Tariman, Ericson Acosta, and Adi Baen Santos’ lives and works can be found, inscribed in rallying cries of generations past and present, and captured in idylls of pastoral life.
Chronicles on Skin also sees the continuation of the artist’s Georgia series, a body of work that recalls that of Georgia O’Keefe, the collection’s namesake. Here, the iconic pieces take on deeper and bolder hues, as Lluch continues to evolve her work with terracotta and marble, capturing the human form in ways both realistic and striking to demonstrate the medium’s versatility and potency in facing issues of gender and identity.
Text by Gabrielle Gonzales