Geraldine Javier (Filipino, B. 1970)
Geraldine Javier (Filipino, B. 1970)

Blackbird Singing

Geraldine Javier (Filipino, B. 1970)
Blackbird Singing
oil on canvas, diptych
upper panel: 60.5 x 152.4 cm. (23 3/4 x 60 in.)
lower panel: 152.4 x 152.4 cm. (60 x 60 in.)
Painted in 2008
Christie's Hong Kong, 30 November 2008, Lot 338
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Ronald Achacoso, "Fragmented Tales" in Asian Art News, Vol. 18, No. 5, September-October 2008, (illustrated, p. 110).
Finale Art File, Geraldine Javier: Sampaloc Cave Paintings, Manila, 2008 (illustrated).
Manila, Philippines, Finale Art File, Geraldine Javier: Sampaloc Cave Paintings, 24 June-7 July 2008.

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Geraldine Javier is one of the most acclaimed artists in Asia for her delicately feminine yet visually compelling works. Blackbird Singing (Lot 512) is a strong example of Javier's skill in presenting an intriguing and whimsical tableau, while investing it with relevant themes of social scrutiny. The scene depicts a young girl lying in a hypnotized, almost catatonic state, slumping awkwardly from a red sofa. In one hand she crushes a bag of half-eaten potato chips, unaware of the tiny hummingbirds circling for crumbs. Trance-like, she appears to be completely mesmerized by blackbirds perched on a branch overhead. The blackbirds are only portrayed as dark silhouettes yet their unheard melody has rendered the girl practically unconsciousness, incapable of speech or movement.

Blackbird Singing was originally part of a suite of paintings from Javier's Sampaloc Cave Paintings exhibition. Sampaloc - the district in Manila where the artist keeps her studio - is combined with the concept of the hermit's cave as a metaphor for the artist's own seclusion when creating her artworks. It also refers to the concept of Plato's cave where one, if entrapped for too long, becomes incapable of distinguishing shadows on the wall from real life. Lena Cobangbang comments: "An elegiac wistfulness for the primeval before rigid structures that delimit and categorize habitation that lead to the creation of cities permeate Geraldine Javier's Sampaloc Cave Paintings. In patinated tones of somber blues, greens and tinges of ochre, the painted scenes portend to fables of dissolving borders between the acclimatized fantasy engendered by media and the real."

Blackbird Singing can be inferred as a satirical take on our modern TV culture, symptomatic for so many urban dwellers. The young girl, chips in hand, is perceived as a contemporary victim of the 'idiot box' which slowly saps our life and intelligence away. Painted with a fine, sable brush which enables the artist's meticulous precision, the environment of Blackbird Singing also appears to subvert the notions of a modern habitat; edging it with fantasy and surrealism. The girl is portrayed as suspended between her own living room and a strangely inverse forest. The thick green carpet on the ground reminds us of actual grass, while the Pied-Piper blackbirds are only shadow-reliefs melding into the two dimensional wallpaper, rendered in hypnotic stripes similar to TV color bars.

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