Viber chat with Manuel Ocampo and Gaston Damag:
Manuel: What is the title of your exhibition for The Drawing Room which opens on July 18?
How does the title relate to the exhibition?
Gerry: The title of my show is “Decoys and other Constructions”. I start with collages and make
large versions of them in oil, starting with an appropriated image or two, and work from
there. These images are appropriated from mass-media sources such as books,
magazines and billboards. From those few elements, other images come into the picture
with me as enabler. I liken this process to prey being drawn to a decoy with me as the
artist-hunter in search for images to incorporate into the picture.
Collaging to me involves shifting and gluing disparate fragments from “high” and “low”
culture from different histories and geographies into a cohesive picture. I compose the
elements in a non-hierarchical manner and “all-over “pattern to give equal importance
to all the elements. Unlike creating a picture from imagination, my process has more to
do with combining pre-existing images and constructing them into layered wholes.
Gaston: In your new collage-based paintings, the collage elements are not as obvious as in your
older works. Some of them seem to be direct abstractions and not collage-based. Please
tell us more about your process, how you collage a picture, working from
representational images into abstractions and how you translate a collage into a
Gerry: That’s a keen observation. Since 7 or 10 years ago, I noticed that as I continue doing
this facet of my oeuvre’, the elements are becoming more and more abstract and less
representational. However, sometimes I add a familiar image to create facture or negate
the illusion of deep space. This comes from Cubism that valorizes actual space and the
physicality of materials over depictions of familiar things in illusory space. I liken the
rendering of medium to language in the way that as you use it more, you improvise and
find more ways of shortening words and sentences. Jackson Pollock used to say that
when he works, he is not conscious of what he’s doing and only realizes what he has
done when the work is finished. This is also true to me in the actual making of the work
but I differ in the way that I work with a given information from where the picture
develops whereas Pollock works on a blank canvas. Sometimes I print an image on
canvas and paint over it. When I started making collages around 25 years ago, I was
more conscious of the separation or facture of the images and how they come together
and relate to each other. Nowadays, the facture is becoming less and less apparent and
the disparate elements are fused together to create a seamless whole. However, as this
is happening, I also find myself working with separate parts that I construct into
assemblages, diptychs or triptychs so it goes back to collaging but more sculptural.
The process of translating a collage into a painting can proceed in two ways – either I
copy it precisely or copy it and take it as springboard for a painting. I scan the collage
and print it on acetate and feed it on a projector for tracing on canvas. When the image
is oiled in, I make changes as I see fit or let it remain as is.
It depends on the scale and the outcome of the painting because changes in scale
affects the perception of color and depth. I improvise things as I work. There are images
that needs to be developed more when they are magnified into a painting. When this
happens, the painting takes a life of its own and deviates from the collage.
Manuel: That’s a great process and its telling of how images come about in connection with
each other. I remember you’re always looking into garbage cans searching for
something to put in your collages. The garbage cans can be seen as a decoy for you, the
artist. I want to mention about hunting too, as decoys are often used in hunting. I think
Gaston has some knowledge on this since he used to hunt and incorporates this idea in
his early work.
Gerry: Yes, I checked garbage cans a lot. I use to carry an instamatic camera for taking photos
of the contents of garbage cans. Not only was I in search of collage materials but I am
always curious how things come together by chance. The garbage can is the perfect
place for this to happen. I review the photos and get a sense of how a collage can be
composed. That way I find other ways of composing a picture. During that time, I was
also doing my project called Code and I was concerned about what we throw away.
I consider them relics of life lived and they provide clues on day-to-day existence. This
reminds me that in my recent collages, I have incorporated printed fragments of
pre-historic images of bison and other animals from the Altamira caves in Spain.
I juxtaposed fragments from pre-historic drawings with, say, minimalist art, to connect
two distant ages and expressions.
Manuel: Hahaha which work if sold can enable you to buy a huge steak!! Bison meat!
Gerry: Absolutely! And consuming meat as an image and as real meat! The real one is better.
Manuel: Your work touches on the idea of reproducibility and how it leads to another form of
creative undertaking like your project with the sound of loom the loom weaving its own
sound. Parang constant yung idea na yan. Like your work with the video camera
painting out its own reflection. I see it as having some connection to absurdist theatre
of Samuel Beckett.
Gaston: Yes. Like waiting for Godot. Nothing is happening but the real exist.
Gerry: I agree, especially with the repetition of actions and unfulfilled expectations. With the
reproducibility of images, I am particular on the self-referentiality of the work and how,
through repetition and manipulation of the material, the work is opened to new
possibilities and trajectories. They can be metaphorical, logical or through the
natural qualities of the material. I also like to include humor in the work, when possible.
Gaston: You use a projector to copy a collage into a painting. This procedure is exacting but
ironically in the shift from collage to painting, changes and improvisations happen
like you insert some funny detail or make the surface sensuous. Therefore, you negate
the precision that mechanical devices are meant for and you come up with a singular
and unique painting.
Gerry: This is precisely the reason I show the collage and painting together – to deconstruct the
process and reveal that irony that you are pointing out. In the shift from collage to
painting, changes in scale happen. For example, a color in a collage can become flat
when magnified. At times, I copy a collage as close as possible like a machine.
At other times, I improvise and let the painting take a life of its own. In the former, the
copy is never the same as the original as there are still changes, minute as they are.
Improvising and changing larger details in the picture is essentially the same to me as
long as it works.
Manuel: One can also say that each and every copy is unique and singular because of the
conditions of nature which is time, temperature, movement, light, etc.
The chat ends with the artist, who is quarantined, chatting to himself:
Gerry: So, Gerry, what’s in store for you after this show?
Gerry: After the exhibition at The Drawing Room, painting will continue as usual. I also plan
to revive the Golden Cargo Museum and turn it into a gallery for changing exhibitions.
This gallery is a rented safe deposit box in a bank. I will invite artists to deposit a small
object/s in the box gallery and take photos of them for exhibition in Instagram.
I started this many years ago for a group show in the defunct Magnet Gallery Paseo
where a loaf of bread was deposited in a box for the duration of the show and shown as
a small photograph on a vast wall in the gallery. Another plan is to revisit older works
and make new versions of them. One is Mirror Painting where I use a video camera to
paint on mirrors.
Download the digital catalog here: Decoy and Other Constructions DC