Hideo Tanaka’s hyper-realist works in “I Am Here” bring us to scenes that seem suspended in time. The images represent poetic settings where the difference between presence and absence measures one’s existence. His paintings in the exhibition are depictions of silent and quiet quandaries in understanding internal struggles measured through the way the objects are rendered: their brokenness and oddness somehow still evoke feelings of being whole despite these peculiarities. In the imperfection, we find the announcement of one’s arrival and departure—marking the changes that have transpired in such threshold and proving that if we look closer, what we see in front of us may just as well be a picture of what is yet to come.

One of the exhibition’s pieces, “Broken,” offers these possibilities, where a smashed ceramic plate is compared to a flower with some of its petals removed. The composition reveals what the image is attempting to articulate: one can be damaged with all its parts severed, but its essence and spirit will continue to live with it. Hence, we are not defined by the amount of damage we experience but by the wholeness of our being.
In “Flowers and Water,” balance governs the whole picture. That as we navigate the world every day, we are only able to live when all aspects of our lives are equal entirely. Tanaka’s “I Am Here” dwells on the unannounced ways that we make our presence felt; hence, the weight of our being must not be too light or heavy. Then, we know that we are treading on the right path.

A woman whose face is shrouded by a veil is the subject of “Evening.” Here, we find that existence is articulated not only in the most visible approaches but more in the way it is hidden. There is another way to exist apart from being part of the crowd. That as an audience, Tanaka tells us that we must also look for these stories. Sometimes, we forget those who live quietly and away from the loud crowd. Hence, the exhibition sheds light on these narratives and guides us to decipher the meaning of presence even in its most unrecognized form. Indeed, there is power in words; Tanaka says, “I Am Here.” That, in declaring ourselves in the present, we become the force we intend to live.

curated by Gwen Bautista