IN the arts of Arvin Bryan C. Narvaez, the world is part of a space that he scans. He flies over them. He surveys them and locates for us those things that we could miss because we seldom find the time to recognize spaces. We do not contemplate the road upon which we walk from home to work and back to home again. We wait for good artists like Narvaez to favor us with the time to think of the skies or the ground, or set the unconscious horizon active in our own mind.
When one views the works of Narvaez, one always gets this feeling of flying over the mountains, or grounds now recognized from above as something else: Are those dried up tributaries? Are those ancient riverways? What are those lines that crisscross all over the boulders and hills? Are they even lines?
More than the answers or discoveries that an artist privileging a view from above is expected to provide, Narvaez is unusual—and this is good—because he allows us to doubt our vision.
In a piece, titled Floating Stream, the romance of a clear, flowing water is absent. What is present is a scarred waterscape, where the stream has perhaps evaporated. It is a sad and cruel landscape, an evasive décor and an invasive commentary on what we have done to our environment.
Irony, which thinkers claim is ever present in astute artists, complicates in Narvaez’s works. The works Ascent and Descent (both are available in two forms) are compelling and horrifying mainly because there seems to be not much difference between going up and coming down.
In the first Descent, the rising and falling and rising are visible and felt only because of the motion of ragged lines against which an object with seeming wings at bottom struggles with the fall. But is this about falling? Those wings might as well be a climb, however, arduous, to get back to the heavens.
Descent II allows us, in a way, to gaze into that which we are falling. To fall is bad enough but to contemplate a thud onto a harrowing ground that swells with waves and toxic froths is terrifying. The wit of H. P. Lovecraft, the American master of horror fiction, is most welcome here: “From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.” The ironies are on those grids, which navigate the plunge. On both Descent are chips placed on the side, a kind of summary of what are the spaces all about and what happens in them.
Terror is not the only weapon of Narvaez in his narrative; there is also humor. This is apparent in his work Perpetual Change. Here, he abandons the view of the personal cosmos and turns around to situate his claim to an ever-present landscape. In the middle, puncturing the horizon is a keyhole surrounded by keys and the possibilities of new entrances and new modes of entering them. He might as well could have named the painting “Personal Change.”
That heritage from the Old World, the “trompe l’oeil,” is trumped up by the artist, dressing the deception with a dreamier deception.
The paintings of Narvaez, who studied in De La Salle University in Dasmariñas, Cavite, vary from 10” x 14” for Descent, Perpetual Change and Ascent, to 15” by 24” for Floating Stream and Descent II.
The other works measure 20” x 30.” The point of this measurement is that the paintings of Narvaez manage to communicate expansiveness without grandeur, infinity within actually quite a limited dimension. Like the favored toy of young filmmakers, a powerful drone informs the perspective of this artist from Silang, Cavite.
Like all young artists today, Arvin Bryan C. Narvaez produces visual, literary and sound art.
He facilitates visual and literary art workshops.
He has participated in solo and group exhibitions from 2014 to 2018. His latest project was a one-man exhibit, called Subtle Days, held last year in the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, of which these paintings were part. His mediums include watercolor, spray paint, enamel, acrylic, found objects, and many others.