Unearth emerges as a result of Garcia’s immersion within a new physical and cultural environment when she relocated from Manila to Baguio, in the Cordilleras mountain region. Executed with mimetic realism, the painting captures a vista dominated by a stunning vast expense of sky – a near-impossible sight in Manila. Yet nature here is hardly unfettered or beautiful, for the heft of human presence is evident from the density of the makeshift buildings precariously perched on the steep terrain. Such shanty housing is at perpetual risk of landslides during typhoons and torrential rain, but these images of potential disaster are so ubiquitous in the mountains that they often cease to be seen. Blown up to this scale, however, certain details of an otherwise commonplace scene become amplified, such as the solitary tree and the church cross, and Unearth gestures to the life that lies beyond concrete structures.
Nona Garcia (b. 1978, Manila) has held numerous solo shows and participated in exhibitions in Asia and Europe. She was the Grand Prize winner of the Philip Morris ASEAN Art Award in 2000. From desolate landscapes, portraits of people with their backs turned to the viewer and X-rays of sacred relics, the stark realism of Nona Garcia’s paintings and works are shaped by an abiding concern to make visible the unseen and to redirect attention to the invisible, oftentimes by engendering a confrontation with the seemingly banal, mundane or hidden.