MESSAGE FROM THE GROUND by Welbart Slowhands and Abi Dionisio
Exactly a year ago, artist Abi Dionisio reflected on the great and unprecedented deluge in our modern history that continues to adversely affect every life possible, regardless of age and race, across the world. As she accepted the seemingly debilitating horrors of the pandemic that continues to isolate everyone from each other to preserve what is left of life, she labored her hands in threadwork to create embroidered moving images of hope and strength to represent the unwavering commitment and dedication of the people at the face of this human threat to save and keep the rest of us safe. Because she also wanted to capture their gargantuan sacrifices that go behind each act of service, she painted the backside of each threadwork on her canvas to show how the seamy thread lines and incoherent knots make the frontside we often only see most invitingly beautiful and inspiring.
Seven months ago, with all her might, she contributed her painterly talent and communicative depth to the artistic dialogue of art as a universal language of healing through her first international solo in London. True to her anchor, she invited everyone “to see the rainbow, promised in the story of Noah’s ark, at the end of these challenging times. That one day, when the sky begins to clear, and the sun starts to shine, and the seas slowly calm, a rainbow of a new day will arch across the sky. Until that day comes, we continue to find the strength and faith within us and live through because there is Noah In Us.”
Unfortunately, the world is still very much in the course of the pandemic, struggling with little wins but fighting with every ounce of a united hope. And as an artist whose years have been dedicated to isolation in order to produce artistic body of works, she continues to reflect on what might possibly be for us at the end of this phase.
In their fourth two-artist exhibition, Dionisio and Welbart invite us to see what possibly awaits us at the most anticipated end of this borderless human struggle—when we are already allowed to leave our Noah’s ark to see again the world we dearly miss, hand in hand.
Despite the profound evolution, not shift, of his artistry, Welbart remains consistently true to his anchor as an artist—to only speak his truth. Known for his critically acclaimed and highly celebrated nude figures set in outstanding chiaroscuro, he unmasks them after years of hiding their troubles and emotions within. Finding strength in truth, one by one, he reveals their faces painted in almost alabaster skin, indicative of years of being kept, but in complete solitude. For each figure, he carefully paints a crown of embroidered words he curated from years of his own self-fought battles.
Each portraiture of Welbart is a powerful visual psycho-emotional autobiography. Each is a personal invitation to his state of being that is continuously searching for meaning and relevance, but remains grounded on his ideals and values. Even before the pandemic hit us, his artistic evolution has been immersing audiences in creative spirituality as a medium to inculcate respect for self, others, and the environment. As the world continues to survive, and hopefully thrive, in isolation, his portraitures pay tribute to the rebirthing of our forests and seas and the restoration of our mental and spiritual beings in the process.
To continue her creative narrative, Dionisio embroiders and paints for the first time the beautiful natural chemistry of flora and fauna. She introduces these new elements painted in a vibrant palette and dynamic movements. Using double exposure treatment, she carefully overlaps her images of life with her symbol of voyage. With remarkable precision, she captures the bravery of the blue tiger, woven in the panels of the ship, and the assured hope that the lovely birds, set against the magnificent hues of clouds and space, may bring as they continue to search for rich, solid ground to land on after a long journey of isolation in our Noah’s ark.
From the very beginning of this artistic journey of togetherness, Dionisio and Welbart always see our Noah’s ark as a means to be safe and not of escape. And as we continue to go through surviving, physically alone and isolated but collectively united, it is their fervent hope that through their collective creative pursuit, we are moved to believe that there is a promise of new and better tomorrows. But for now, we continue living our lives, albeit distant and isolated from each other, while patiently waiting for the Message From The Ground.
– Prim Paypon
About The Artists
Abi Dionisio is an acclaimed contemporary Filipino artist known for her visual tableaux of intricate embroidery and lyrical representational painting. Despite her young age, she has already garnered several prestigious awards, locally and internationally, including First Prize at the Art Association of the Philippines’ Annual Art Competition 2009; Top 12 Semi-Finalist at 2011 and 2012 Metrobank Foundation Art Competition in Manila, Philippines; Juror’s Choice Award and National Awardee at the 2015-2016 Philippine Art Awards; Global Finalist at Art Renewal Center’s 2014-2015 International Arc Salon Competition in Port Reading, New Jersey, USA to name a few. Because of her numerous accolades and remarkable contributions to Philippine contemporary art, she received the prestigious Gintong Kabataan (Golden Youth) Award for Visual Arts in 2017 from Hiyas ng Malolos in Bulacan, Philippines.
A coveted artist, her works have been exhibited in eight solo and sixty-five group shows in Hong Kong (Conrad Hotel for Asia Contemporary Art Show), London (8th solo exhibition at Saatchi Gallery and One East Asia at The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair), Philippines (Altromondo Gallery, Art Center, Art Fair Philippines, Ayala Museum, BenCab Museum, Finale Art File, Provenance Art Gallery, Ysobel Art Gallery, Yuchengco Museum), Singapore (One East Asia), Taiwan (28th Asian Art International Exhibition).
Born in 1987 in the City of Malolos in Bulacan, Philippines, she earned a BFA Major in Advertising from Bulacan State University in 2009. She continues to stitch and paint in Bulacan, Philippines.
Welbart is a celebrated contemporary Filipino artist best known for his powerful psycho-emotional autobiographical visual compositions. An award-winning artist, he has joined and won in various important national competitions from 2005 to 2016 including the 2016, 2013, and 2006 GSIS Art Competition; 2008 Philippine Drawing Society; 2005 and 2004 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence; and 2005 and 2004 Art Association of the Philippines’ Annual Art Competition. He is also the founder and mentor of ArtZoo, a collective of Bulacan-based visual artists whose professional careers are now dominating the local art scene. Because of his outstanding contributions as a visual artist, an art collective builder, and an art mentor, he was awarded the Natatanging Paombongeño sa Larangan ng Sining at Kultura in 2006.
A religiously hard-working artist, his works have been exhibited in ten solo and fifty-six group shows to date, from 2000 to present. His works have been exhibited in Japan (PINTOKYO 2018 in Tokyo), London (Larasati Auctioneers at The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair), Philippines (Altromondo Gallery, Art Center, Ayala Museum, BenCab Museum, Finale Art File, Pinto Art Museum, Provenance Art Gallery, Secret Fresh Gallery, Village Art Gallery, The Big and Small Art Co, Ysobel Art Gallery), Singapore (One East Asia), Taiwan (28th Asian Art International Exhibition), and USA (ERENSIA at Philippine Center, New York City).
Born in 1971 in Pampanga, Philippines, he is a self-taught artist who finished a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Time & Location
Km. 6 Asin Rd, Tuba, 2600 Benguet