It’s impossible to look at Lucell Larawan’s paintings without feeling some form of nostalgia. And this isn’t just because he paints in them reveries with themes and places that are close to his heart. It’s also because they elicit feelings of fondness, while also conjuring images of wonder and fantasy.
How this is possible will likely elude anyone who attempts to view his paintings. But this doesn’t really matter, for his paintings have in them a dream-like quality. Looking at them feels like being in dreamland to the extent that it is easy for the viewer to lose himself in a trance. Partly due to the captivating visuals of his works, he describes his painting style as a mix of pointilism and hybrid presentation, which explains his use of tiny dots and the distinct visual aesthetic characteristic of most of his works.
But Larawan isn’t a pure stylist. Also a poet, it is difficult to fully appreciate his paintings outside the context of the messages they are attempting to convey – for his art is part visual commentary. In Giving Birth to Freedom he expresses his yearning to be free amidst the pandemic, where the country finds itself torn between opening up the economy and implementing lockdowns. Similarly, in A Glimpse of Home and Expanding My Horizon, we see how much of his work is inspired by places that are deeply personal to him. Last but not least, Portal to My Dream shows us his propensity for symbolism and metaphor in his works, showing us just how well-rounded he is as an artist.
The fact that Larawan’s artworks are both aesthetically pleasing and so rich in meaning brings one much delight, to say the least. His paintings seem to have a binary effect: on one hand, they all seem so foreign; on the other hand, they also strike you as utterly familiar, almost like meeting a long lost friend you haven’t seen in years.
This might sound odd, and yet, everything seems to make perfect sense. The paradox of Larawan’s paintings isn’t that they leave you with contradictory feelings; it is that they leave you with seemingly diverse feelings that are perfectly compatible. By sharing with us the sublime in the things he finds familiar, he introduces us to his perspective – all while making us realize that we feel the same way about the things that matter to us most.
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Published September 12 2021