Echoes of the past remain tattooed on our identity as Filipinos
Julie Lluch has spent the last half-century practising art. As a self-taught sculptor with a degree in philosophy from the University of Santo Tomas, she has been able to create great works that invoke powerful social commentaries on relevant issues. She is at the forefront of feminism in the Philippines, being involved since the 1980s, a turbulent time in the Philippines.
In her most recent exhibit at Galerie Stephanie, titled Chronicles on Skin, she opened up new and old wounds to tell the narrative of the Filipino people. From the Battle of Mactan to the guerillas fighting in the mountains and extrajudicial killings, these chapters in our history do not just run skin deep. They course through our veins.
The bodies are marked by centuries of injustice, unrest, and violence from our oppressors. And now, it’s happening again. Only this time, the blows are coming from within.
ABOVE “Sunrise (For Adi)”, 24 x 9 x 24 inches, acrylic on cold cast marble (Photo: Galerie Stephanie)
ABOVE “Picasso, Luna Y Yo”, 24 x 9 x 24 inches, acrylic on cold cast marble (Photo: Franz Sorilla IV)
ABOVE “Peasants Spoliarium”, 24 x 12 x 26 inches, acrylic on cold cast marble (Photo: Galerie Stephanie)
ABOVE “Resistance 1521”, 24 x 9 x 40 inches, acrylic on cold cast marble (Photo: Galerie Stephanie)
Lluch used cold-cast marble to create bodies that carry ‘tattoos’ of stories, either figural or literary. For years, Lluch has considered the human body the best sculptural figure of art. Classical era artists have tried to master the corporeal form through drawings, paintings, and sculptures, and she mirrors their enthusiasm.
Though her work was meant to strike a chord within your psyche, Chronicles on Skinis ultimately a protest against the brutality we have endured for centuries. The Filipino skin, already black and blue, is getting darker with every unjust killing that goes unpunished. Looking at her sculptures, one can’t be blamed for feeling uncomfortable. Violence against the human body isn’t meant to be beautiful. It isn’t meant to be enjoyed. The exhibit highlights our country’s history of subjugation. We have been crying out for strength that is already ours. Lluch is reminding us of that and echoes the nationalism that we have lost in service of tyrants.
“You’re an artist. You don’t necessarily need beauty. But something that is so thought-provoking and triggers a deeper understanding of human nature,” Lluch shared.
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ABOVE “Touch Me”, 24 x 10 x 40 inches, acrylic on cold cast marble (Photo: Franz Sorilla IV)
ABOVE “Mandala”, 17 x 14 x 17 inches, acrylic on cold cast marble (Photo: Galerie Stephanie)
She was shocked when Lluch saw photos of the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK). Lifeless bodies were torn apart while their skin was beaten, blending with their tattoos of crude images like skulls, dragons, and fire. Through her anger and anguish, she immortalised the fallen to become a reminder of what happened centuries ago, decades ago, and just a few years ago. She summoned through her figurations the mundane and the esoteric, made the folktales and news meet, and evoked patriotism among observers on many levels.
“I want to be part of this movement so that people don’t forget what happened. . .It’s easy to forget about the thousands brought to jail, but what about them? We cannot just let the perpetrators go unpunished. It is our moral duty,” says Lluch.
ABOVE Julie Lluch while painting in her studio (Photo: Galerie Stephanie)
Renowned as a sculptor, this is Lluch’s first time painting in this style and technique. While you could argue her previous works can be considered paintings, she thinks otherwise. “Somebody asked me before if I was melding, putting together paintings and sculptures, and I said no. It can only be one or the other. . .I didn’t mean to be a painter here. I’m still painting a sculpture, I’ve succeeded with it to some extent, but I don’t think I’m a painter already. Not yet,” said Lluch.
ABOVE “For Georgia”, 2011, cold cast marble 21 x 16” (53 x 41 cm), (Photo: Galerie Stephanie)
The end of the exhibit features Lluch’s ‘For Georgia’ artworks. Though she released the collection in 2011, these serve as a tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe and a stark contrast to the masculine works while tapping into her feminist beliefs, for which she is known.