Right in the height of the pandemic, and after much postponement, artist Regina Reyes along with her partner, packed home, hearth and cats and relocated to the city of Gensan, on the southernmost tip of the island of Mindanao. Regina was betting on all hopes the inter-island migration would reveal itself as the instant antidote to all woe and weariness, and that it was the cleansing wave to wash over her, expelling in its passing some personal matters that had clung on her person. It might be quick, and it might be easy. She can set up base, unpack their things, let the cats out of the crates and that was the end of it, life would restart and roll into its usual tempo.

She then found out that it was not.

It was not the answer, nor did it deliver the remedy she hoped for. The food did not taste the same, she suspected the house she was living in wasn’t even constructed right, and the local market was less than agreeable. She now found herself in the odd predicament of resisting the very newness she sought out for because she realized,  “… I didn’t know how to position myself in a community that had no need for what I could offer. I felt like a stranger with no seat at the table available to me.”

She went back to Manila for a visit, and back again to Gensan, each return more alienating  than the one preceding it. Even the nooks and crannies of her old room rebuffed her return. In her heart, the physical move was asking a little bit more internal from her. A geographic relocation alone wouldn’t cut it. Belonging and home is as much a state of mind as it is a physical one. She realized she must capitulate, trust the process and let it be.

Her solo exhibition at Galerie Stephanie, Notes on Surrender, is the first since that move. Wherein Regina’s earlier body of work explores the rise above the ruin, the works for Notes on Surrender confront the two sides of dreams and realities, and the crucial balance we must arrive at between the two. Notes on Surrender had been aptly entitled. The collection of paintings, drawings and mixed media collages are visual footnotes, declarations on the beauty of imperfections, an addendum on traversing the unknown, the post scripts of love letters to art and its creation. Regina has written the epilogue for a volume in a sprawling story of her continuing journey. She prods her surroundings with an inquisitive stick, reveling in its imperfect beauty and the lesson on letting go it has bestowed upon her. Recognizing that the earth surrenders to seasons, so she must do the same. The grip on hard dreams loosened, and in turn the seedling residing in reality blossomed.

Her process of collage-making is a process requiring conversations with herself—a back and forth, give and take of juxtaposing articles of found mass media, photographs (which she took herself), adhesives, paper and pastel. There are things which catch and capture  both her eye and attention, and she intuitively selects these pictures because she knows it can be utilized soon, or perhaps later. Within the confines of her work the seams between photomontage and drawing is blurred, and indistinguishable is the line which separates the two.

As in the photomontages and drawings found in her work, art and life intermingle—art teaches life, and life informs art in return. Her works are part dream sequence, part rooted in reality; lucid dreams that are tempered by the detritus of everyday life. The hardness of raw, crumbling concrete softened by the apparition of a diaphanous swathe of tulle, a curved sinewy back adorned by ivory ribbon exists beside sooty atmospheres and a hard red sun, the luster of a string of pearls shine beside dry leaves and brittle branches. The initial encounter of Regina’s work urges one to take in the works in its entirety, but you are also asked to linger just a few moments more and mentally dismantle the amalgam of imagery she has created.  This is the language of Regina Reyes’ works in Notes on Surrender—the ethereal dream converses with the hard edges of reality. Together they form an imperfect beauty, one that is just enough, and cultivated just rightly so.

In her newfound home, Regina sought refuge in books and the natural world, venturing outside in solitude riding her bike, going for walks and drives and absorbing what magic  sun, soil and verdure conjured. Surrender is much, much easier said than done, but it is a necessary birthing pain to forging a life well built.In Regina’s words, the here and the now is “a gift”, and one which she intends on keeping.

curated by Liv Vinluan