A CLIP in 2020 resurfaced recently on social media, which captures the horrifying progression of the Covid-19 outbreak. The video, taken from a reality TV show, follows the moments when news of the pandemic was being broken to the contestants, confined in a monitored house and oblivious to the “outside world.”
They were being told that the World Health Organization was keeping tabs on a contagious virus from China spreading throughout the world. Shock and disbelief colored everyone’s faces. The updates continued in the following days, from the skyrocketing global tally of cases, to the closing of government borders, and—finally—to the cancellation of that show’s season.
It’s nothing short of ironic then that while the program was halted, its concept carried on around the world, with pretty much everyone going on an extended period of home quarantine. But while the lockdowns were meant to arrest the spread of the virus by limiting mobility, it also brought about a wave of anxiety. For visual artist Kyle Fortu-Legaspi, her prolonged stay at home brought about a sense of rediscovery.
“In our confinement, we uncovered the beauty that eluded us,” Legaspi said. “We began to see the reflections on surfaces and the textures of the things we own. We observed the curves on our drapes and found solace in the shadows. We experienced a multitude of emotions in silence and in the quietude.”
More importantly, she added, “we found ourselves embraced by our own homes.”
Legaspi explores the idea in her newest solo exhibition this March, which marks the third year since the WHO declared Covid-19 as a pandemic, along with the continued celebration of International Women’s Month. The show, titled Woven Memories, opened recently at Conrad Manila’s Gallery C as the 23rd installment of its Of Art and Wine series. It will be on view until May 27.
Legaspi holds a degree and license in nursing. Drawn by her interest in the textures and colors of textiles, however, she went on to study at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines. In 2016, she learned watercolor painting and incorporated fashion in her art.
That same year, Legaspi joined the Philippine Guild of Watercolorists and became a member of its board of trustees shortly after. In 2020, the hyperrealistic watercolorist was awarded by BGC Arts Center for her piece in the You Are Not Alone Quarantine Art Competition. For three consecutive years, Legaspi has made it to the top 3 of the annual PGW National Watercolour Contest.
In Woven Memories, Legaspi presents 26 watercolor works, defined as always by her mastery of light and reflection. The featured still-life pieces combine elements of flowers, portrait and textile, which can be mistaken as a photograph.
In From Thy Bounty, an assortment of fruits and flowers are arranged on a plate, while a textured textile piece snakes around it. Particularly impressive in the piece is Legaspi’s depiction of the branches’ shadows, which elongate and curve and fade as they would in real life. Meanwhile, the lone kitchenware in Floral Dreams faithfully reflects the soft petals and intricate cloth surrounding it.
Legaspi likewise captures the innocence of a child’s eyes in her watercolor portraits, as seen, for instance, in Underneath. The pieces feature the nieces and nephews she lives with, who willingly model for her.
“The collection is a visual memoir of the blues and stillness, which will soon fade and become a memory,” Legaspi said. “The exhibit is a visual tribute to the women who fervently helped maintain harmony and sanity in our homes during the lockdown. It is a series of watercolor paintings illustrating the strength that these women displayed in solitude and silence.”