My first time experiencing the ‘underground’ art scene

By Camille Fernandez

There’s little that I know about shopping compound Makati Cinema Square except that it’s old, and by old I mean really old. When I asked my dad if he knew the place that I’d be going to for the first time, he scoffed and deadpanned that the mall was older than me. He didn’t exactly answer my question, but I knew from his tone that he must’ve been there many times in his youth. 

At first glance, you wouldn’t expect the old shopping center to be the home of an art gallery. You can tell that not much has changed since the mall was built in the ‘80s, but I wasn’t bothered by it. I did my research on the place and I wasn’t going to go in blind. Despite its old age, the shopping center is known to have plenty of hidden gems and one of them is an art gallery called Underground.

Nestled in a quiet corner of the second floor of the mall, it’s ironic considering that the name of the place is “Underground,” but the origin of the name is far from its literal meaning. Instead it alludes to something more rebellious. And just like its name, the gallery plays host to works that are unapologetically avant-garde and extraordinary; here, it’s a guarantee that you’ll find something that will raise an eyebrow or two.

Today, I am here for a three-part exhibit: Cut. Paste. Repeat, Other Than and Drawing Show

As I pass through the glass doors, the bustling energy of the shopping center and the booming of Filipino power ballads playing in the background no longer mattered. No matter what gallery you enter, going in will be like entering hallowed ground. Once you enter, nothing else matters, just the art displayed and going to this particular gallery was certainly no exception.

The first of the shows that I found here was Jonathan Ching’s Cut. Paste. Repeat. A fitting title considering that the entire collection features collages.  Each piece is made of old book pages, magazine pages, cardboard, and tinfoil, that were cut up and pasted onto clean sheets of bond paper. No two look alike, but what they all have in common is that each one looks like an abstract painting. 

I step into next hall and I find MM Yu’s collection entitled Other Than. Her show features a series of vibrantly colored triangular paintings that are arranged in such a way to create different shapes. The way the paintings were arranged within the gallery reminded me of tangram puzzles— a game in which the player is given a set of shapes that they would have to arrange in such a way to create new figures. Of all the shows that were available, I found this one the most playful due to how colorful the works were.

Just across these two exhibits in a different glassed room is a group show called Drawing Show featuring artists Brisa Amir, Vic Balanon, Elmer Borlongan, Nice Buenaventura, Nicole Coson, Lara de los Reyes, Ian Fabro, Jem Magbanua, Kat Ortiz, Michelle Perez, Mona Santos, Soler Santos, Sidney Valdez, Alvin Zafra, Cos Zicarelli, and Raj Zulueta. As you can tell from the title itself, most of the art showcased here were drawings, and each had their own twist. I found one piece here especially groundbreaking: Lara De los Reyes’ “Actos de Desagrovio.” It’s a embroidered drawing that I’m pretty sure is made out of hair.

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect once I set foot into Makati Cinema Square, but I was pleasantly surprised. I firmly believe that this is a place that I will visit again now that I know that there is a piece of the art world hiding in plain sight.

Cut. Paste. Repeat, Other Than and Drawing Show will be on until July 22 at Underground Gallery inside the 2nd floor of Makati Cinema Square along 2130 Don Chino Roces Ave, Pio Del Pilar, Makati City.

Photos by Emma Noelle