In similar histories throughout humanity, the concept of the Divine continues to have an intrinsic assertion of power and authority. From a certain perspective, it’s an embodiment of an above force and supreme control from which everything emanates –natural order and the foundations of human arrangements and civilizations. For those who sought and continue to seek power, the definitive aim is to share and exploit that divine authority and to manipulate dogma in order to legitimize authority. Divine rule as a mystical and complex apparatus of control and political hold has since been man’s enduring source of conflict. Men have since battled each other to take on heavenly authority to reign and rule over others in tribal and holy wars. They also transpired in ritualized conquests by the introduction of new sacred idols to new and unknown lands and areas of conquest as seen in the colonial history of the world. Meanwhile, in the affairs of men, hereditary rulers, politicians and the ruling elite wielded and shared such control and perversely scheme and continue to exploit the weak in its agenda to accumulate, disperse and preserve whatever authority they have. To this day, these concepts and dynamics of power pervasively rule us from court of men and temples of God.
In his second solo show and comeback exhibition, Of Gods and Patriots, artist Raymond Katawaki Go delves into the question of power and its immanent contradictions by projecting ancient and contemporary images, of the religious and the secular in an attempt to call and respond to myth and reality. These arresting images turn into a social introspection to review the historical past and institutional ideas that are so intrinsic to intervention and inquiry but with a pulse on the present based on the artist’s understanding and impressions of these realities.
20” X 24” oil on canvas
Katawaki-Go’s images are particularly dark, grotesque and sometimes bordering the surreal. His lexicon of iconography and other assigned metaphors abounds with cryptic notes and subtexts that are always informed and discernable. Consistently, in this set of artworks, we can immediately sense overt ideas of struggle and distress as well as control to represent the insistence of conflict, the brutal and forceful oppositions that characterize social hierarchies. They tell us of the artist’s intentions are clearly far from just entertaining and to deliver aesthetic pleasures.
To reflect on his Japanese heritage instead of ancestor worship, in Fat Boy and Co.he tells the emotional recollection of war by painting Fat Boys bombs which were used in Nagasaki during World War II. Here he lays the image of a cherub like lovers unmindful of the impending doom out of the destructive weapons falling from the sky.
Praying Man Tease
60” X 60” oil on canvas
In Praying Man Tease, he juxtaposes various elements in a rich tableaux of images with immense references to show how words/histories passed down from generations to another can be full of manifest inconsistencies and distortions depending on who has the authorial control and dominant influence to scribe the past. He hangs St. Rocke(San Roque), a holy figure and known faith healer associated with plague and epidemics to depict his anguish and how he was rebuffed during his time, an allusion to changing and fluid historical appreciation over time. Meanwhile, to forward the idea of conspiracy and false history, he interjects an image of Commodore George Perry of the infamous and staged Battle of Manila whose presence is a political farce and eventually led to the cessation of the country from Spain to the United States. In another part of this frame is a paired icons of a Mayan god and Bul’ul in a gesture of exchanging ancient sacred texts to connote the anachronicity of most of our held faith and social practices yet they pervasively remain so in control of our contemporary existence.
A Place at Last Among the Immortals
96” X 96” oil on canvas
Peculiarly colossal in scale, A Place at Last Among the Immortals dramatizes the basic thesis of the show, a giant image of a sovereign who evokes a moribund state of corrupted power. His crown is fashioned to spell the word King where texts and verbal emblems are inscribed as well as images of the ancient Roman senators which directly relate to how power and other constructs of state are only institutionalized by men. As rulers demand submission or sacrifice, a frenzy of people rushes out King’s mouth to imply the people’s rise to arm and to struggle for freedom and to depict the inherent conflict between rulers and subjects.
Thus, power can be seen in the symbols of sovereignty, religious iconography and other image-tools of mythology and other venerated symbols and even spaces. They can also be symbols of state, rituals, laws, money and material culture that were produced in the continuing struggle of men in war and resistance and now in the hegemonic commercial images that control our contemporary desires and attitudes. With the teeming descriptive acuity and commentary that fill these representations of sacred and political figures, they become a condensed allegory for the body politic perhaps within this land or even other territories that have been subjected to the play of faith and greed for power.
18” X 24” oil on canvas
Katawaki-Go lends us his images perhaps to allow us to view in their historical lenses, the consistencies, patterns and dynamics of how humanity corrupts itself in its constructed orders. Mindful of the circular nature of past and present, he ably situates us all in history and experience for us to re-evaluate certain familiar images and symbol we venerate and that rule our faith and social thinking.
About the artist
Raymond Katawaki Go studied painting at Far Eastern University and has been a familiar and constant winner in prized art competitions. After a long hiatus marked by personal constraints, this solo exhibition marks his return and he fulfills it with verve and excitement. In this virtuosic formal exercise of visual art, he reminds us not just of his genuine talent but his humanity. He is native of Marinduque but presently lives and work in Quezon City.