Jeffrey Sisican: Finding Peace in Nature

Jeffrey Sisican: Finding Peace in Nature

It might be a strange thing to say, but there is something oddly satisfying with gas masks or respirators being portrayed in art. We’ve seen them used in street art and performative art among others. But their roots actually stretch far back out into the past. During the Bubonic Plague, doctors used contraptions similar to the masks we have now – except that theirs was laced with perfume and worn with gloves and full-body coats as they were handling piles and piles of dead bodies, which made them look more like grim reapers than cool subjects meant to be rendered and admired in paintings.

While still not exactly rid of such horrifying notions, gas masks in art today can still look hip regardless of why some people view them as morbid. But throughout the passage of time gas masks have also taken on new meaning. While gas masks are traditionally used to insulate oneself from, well, gas and other toxic substances, in the political arena, it’s been used to signify villainy and toxicity, as well as turned into a symbol of protest by many environmental activists. These protective aids make for urgently strong metaphors, but they also carry with them different meanings subject to various contexts and interpretations.

In his Ginhawa Series, a collection of four separate but related paintings, Jeffrey Sisican’s artworks all find a gas mask in them. But he doesn’t so much as use them to make a political statement. Instead, he applies them to deal with the theme of isolating ourselves from chaos through nature. We consistently see this theme in the series. Apart from his subjects being adorned with respiratory gear, Sisican’s paintings are graced with vibrantly colored branches and leaves, as well as hearts that are depicted in the raw organic form, all set against a backdrop of quaint colors. It’s an eccentric mix, but nonetheless, blending well in perfect order. His works somewhat give us a sense of inner peace, exuding tranquility, which is, above all, what he set out to do in the first place.

While isolation can be taken too far by closing oneself from society, there is certainly nothing wrong with getting away from all the doldrums and the worries of the world if only briefly. Sisican says that nature is one of the places one can escape. But sometimes, art can serve this purpose just as well. Just look at his paintings. 
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Published September 16 2021
By ianpantaleon

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