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Midas touch at the NCCA Gallery: Repoussé artist turn vegetables to brass artwork

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

We cannot eat gold. But we can definitely admire vegetables in gold and brass repoussé.

In his latest work, artist Joseph Andrew Carvajal exhibits at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Gallery sculptures of local vegetables rendered in low-relief brass discs, some of which even are gold-plated.

The exhibition entitled Ang Ating Mga Kayamanan sa Bakuran (Our Treasures in the Yard) alludes to the most recent set of sculptures of Carvajal who started exploring repoussé some 30 years ago.

Repoussé, a metalworking technique of shaping malleable metals by raising designs in low relief from the back or inside, is commonly seen in Catholic sacramentals and pre-Hispanic gold artifacts such as stem cups and halos and crowns of Christian religious symbols.

Ang Ating Mga Kayamanan sa Bakuran features 15 gold-plated and oxidized brass repoussé of vegetables such as ampalaya, sayote, alugbati, kamote, sili, kamatis, and the like, all measuring 2.75 inches in diameter.

Carvajal, an assistant professor of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines Baguio, also exhibited in 2014 a collection of repoussé of floral motifs entitled “Plata Flora” at the Pasilyo Edades in the CCP.

Photo from Cultural Center of the Philippines

Exhibit curator Alain Zedrick Camiling said in an explanatory note to media members that the vegetative subjects in the artworks are “suggestive of a reconsidering and a revisit to how we approach lived experiences.”

“Our immediate surroundings are viewed as a potent avenue for self-nourishment and ingenuity. On the other hand, treasures, in this exhibition, propose to reassess subjectivities and complexities, such as needs, interests, and desires,” he said.

According to the artist, the inedible gold ironically underscores that food is more valuable and this juxtaposition emphasizes that hunger is equally a threat amidst the current pandemic.

Camiling is the chairperson and lecturer at the Arts Management Program of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Manila.

The exhibit runs from July 5 to July 31. Aside from the exhibit itself, a by-invite workshop was also held on July 6.


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