‘Out of the Depths’ Exhibition Essay by Gwen Bautista


            Filipino-Australian artist, Kristone Capistrano, examines the circle of life through a collection of large and medium-scale portraits. Here, the artist looks at the relationship of his selected images and the way he has decided to represent them —through intimate but monumental drawings that highlight humanity in two stages: infancy and adulthood. In doing so, Capistrano believes that these phases count on the ability of the human hands to nurture, cradle, and sustain the living.

                  In “Out of the Depths”, scenes of infants being delivered into this world are found alongside illustrated faces of manual laborers: both subjects depend on the movements of hands for existence. Capistrano writes, “As infants, we are pulled out into the world through human hands; whilst as adults, it is through our own hands (and our work) that we sustain ourselves and our future offspring. As a contemporary artist committed to traditional methods of mark-making, the hand comes to the fore as the tangible means by which new work and new drawings emerge and come to life.”

                  At the same time, Capistrano considers the physical and emotional connection in forming images through drawings and the proximity of the medium with his personal and physical self. Through the tedious and slow process of completing these portraits, layers and layers of repetitive marks are delicately transferred onto the paper, which is similar to the daily and often mundane tasks involved in one’s work as a manual laborer. Amid the convenience of a digitized and automated world, Capistrano and the subjects of his portraits revel on the power of corporeal self in moving to such trajectories.

                  Trained in Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Capistrano’s classical techniques in drawing capture the strength of making works that could rouse the eyes through a contemporary take on realism.  Although the artist evidently adheres to his formalist skills in portraiture, his practice thrives on the spontaneous and rhythmic way of mark-making; independent from devices used for accuracy, such as grids and projectors, Capistrano’s scaling is based on how he sees the proportions of his subjects within their environment; sometimes, a set of eyes becomes the focus of the portrait, as Capistrano chooses to draw stories instead of pictures.

                  Influenced by the works of Western masters like Edgar Degas, Francisco Goya, and, the German artist, Käthe Kollwitz (whose works cross between realism and expressionism), Capistrano’s portraits reflect a sense of respect and union between the subject and the artist. Here, the surface of the paper hosts the situations and conditions of the personas he rendered to evoke empathy from the vulnerability that echoes through the pathos visible among the images.

                  “Out of the Depths” reveals the beauty and fragility of human mortality; the contrasts in black and white, darkness and light, correspond to the struggles and challenges of humanity. In this exhibition, we become enthralled by the fact that the drawings in front of us are charged with tales of people not too different from ourselves. In the artist’s words, the people behind these portraits speak and ask us,  “Look at me. I am here. I am waiting.”