Acrylic / Oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches (152 x 183 cm)
Elmer Roslin's recent oeuvre consists of large and medium scale oil paintings capturing an intimate affinity with his subject, the complexity and sharpness of his observational skills, his proficient handling of medium and eloquent technique alongside forceful ideological and conceptual visions recurring in the realm of his creative mind.
In years of prolific artistic output after he bagged the Grand Prize in the Oil Painting Category of the Metrobank Young Painter's Annual National Painting Competition Year 2000, Roslin's art has matured into an early apotheosis worthy of critical acclaim. His show entitled "TAUMBAYAN" – a tagalog word play literally and metaphorically concocting 'tao' (human), 'tambay' (bystander), 'tambayan' (a place for hanging-out) and 'bayan' (town/country) to signify an inherent relativity between the four concepts. The conceptual proximity linked with the socio-cultural interactions between 'tao', "tambay', 'tambayan' and 'bayan' becomes his underlying theoretical framework for the distinctive interplay of elements, ideas and forms in his works. The tambayan, like the chancy games of nine-ball, terembe, mah-jong or videogames, with its therapeutic powers to shut down reality, provides a common social venue for the throngs of the apathetic, bored, hopeless, and unemployed a temporarily elevated existence secluded by optimism and depression, by tranquil escapism and an intoxicated melancholy.
His artistic development is one that is not anchored merely on germinating technical and stylistic mastery, for his art emanates from ideas, issues and experiences that enrapture him as a human being. In his numerous visual exercises of the 'tambayan' theme, the images reveal an incessant passion with the ephemerality of earthly existence in the transitory snapshot quality of his compositions, the dynamic interchange of light and shadow, and the captured stillness of ironically fleeting moments. Meanwhile, his efficient articulation of drawing encapsulates a wide visual lexicon of intimate, albeit public human spaces and physical body rhetoric, with lines and brushstrokes so highly crisp, novel and confident yet graceful and flowing.
Roslin's paintings are never without a slightest allusion of tongue-in-cheek humor, embodying the flux and flow of rapidly modifying lifestyles, culture and fashion. He ingeniously uses space to incorporate details that effectively captures not only his temperament and idiosyncracies but also his whimsical interpretation of contemporary Filipino existence: cigarettes, cellphones, posters, playing cards, jewelry, bottles of beer, calendars, anime characters, etc. – mundane minutiae and images of pop culture that he chose to monumentalize and valorize in his quest for meaning and ironies present in such public spaces created for leisure time.
He consciously engages his viewers in an active and animated dialogue with the works. By utilizing compositional devices such as arms or legs cropped by the lower margin, he signifies the presence of the viewer's gaze within the painting's pictorial field. He places a premium on the idea that a painting moves beyond the illusionistic aesthetic of being a window to another world. For him, the operative presence of the viewer's gaze completes the sum and substance of the work. In his native hometown in Antipolo, Elmer is a direct participant of the representation that he sees through. He is constantly engaged with the banal reality of his images: jampacked billiard halls, crowded computer arcades, and the visual culture of his immediate social environment. And this makes his art all the more incisive and substantial.
Roslin's works become transmogrified into a looking glass where one ultimately sees and recognizes oneself. In his works, he shares with his viewers an authentic experience of a world filtered through the eyes of a pervasive spectator. His vision is an honest poetic sight trapping in solitary confinement realities deep and profound. He painted images of the masses molded in quiet exaltation. And this imposing stillness commands meditation and contemplation in the minds and hearts of those who are to encounter them in the future.
THE PERVASIVE SPECTATOR
by Sherwin Coronado