Alexander Calceta gathers daily objects infused with history. From the design, manufacture, purchase, and then use, every innocuous item in a living space can be deemed interesting, remarkable because of this history. We might not notice the amount of objects we accumulate over even just a fraction of a lifetime, but inadvertently, this curation of possessions attest to our very selves, our choices, and our situations. Retrospection nudges us toward a closer examination of daily objects as vessels of memory, through which we can review our lives.

The objects are strung about in casual composition, as if caught in the midst of existence. But the canvas renders hazy memory in high definition. Calceta’s eye and hand coordinate like a historian to plot every detail, recording not just the forms and colors but the words, numbers, even brands. Through prolonged study—truly viewing these objects—they are immortalized in their current state, as though in an effort to capture these objects before they slip into decay. Perhaps they have already been dug up from obscurity. The mundane is elevated to something worthy of an archive.

Calceta paints every nick, crease, stain, or scar as evidence of the lives lived in its proximity. The creases on book pages echo the hands that turned them, the spots of rust on a pitcher remember the water droplets running down its side, scratches on the wood testify to the familiar bumping of neighboring furniture. Age provides depth. All these little histories converge in this time and place, creating, perhaps, a story.

But the artist not only studies and collects for himself—the maximalist compositions provide the viewer a space for sustained inspection. The shadows, the closed boxes, give off an air of mystery. Whether strange or familiar, he asks the audience for their own associations, inviting them to interweave memory and speculation. Viewing the items as a stranger, setting upon this collection with our own biases, our own retrospection, we can glean stories of our own. We can glimpse the lives intermingled with these objects, revel in the context and culture of past and present, and yield sympathy or camaraderie. Through inspection, we might fall into an understanding—even communion.

Beyond the objects that substantiate the images in Retrospection, Calceta’s preoccupation is in the humanity that lies parallel—the people who made, chose, or simply were witness to. In essence, the things point to the lives lived in their presence.

– Shireen Co


Alexander Calceta is a Filipino visual artist. A prolific painter, he specializes in hyper-realistic still lifes in oil, but also dabbles in acrylic painting, non-representational works, and assemblage. His current preoccupation is composing compelling, usually vintage items to create a narrative. He has participated in many group exhibitions both locally and internationally, and has mounted 8 solo shows over his career. He is an active member of the Arts Association of the Philippines, and has been a finalist in multiple art competitions, most notably for the AAP Annual Art Competition in 2001, and the GSIS Arts Competition in 2012.