In his first solo exhibition at Arario Gallery Shanghai, internationally renowned young artist Leslie de Chavez cautiously deals with sensitive subjects like Imperialism, the colonial history and religion of his homeland and the entire Asia, which still remains an ongoing issue of the continent, and contemplates deeply on the function, influence and directivity of art in a society.
Recognized for his distinguished talent and sensibility in painting, the Filipino artist casts a bitter metaphor on the society he lives in, suggesting a response to reality through reconstructing the icons and symbols of the times. The value system of de Chavez about society and art is firm and clear. He invites introspection on reality through works that reflect hard work and passion. Looking back at Leslie de Chavez artistic exploration at different stages, we can observe a subtle shift of his creative focus. From the memories of youth with an indolent and unruly nature in early years of 21st century, the pervasive Western culture and consumerism have been revealed in colorful and exaggerated street style. After 2004, with his artistic creation became more sophisticated, he turned his attention to the ruthless attack and profound reflection on the blind worship of colonial culture, centralized power and imperialism. With the dignified and exquisite brush strokes, he returned to his cultural roots of the Philippines and acute analysis of the diseases in local reality.
Nowadays, the artistic creation of de Chavez can no longer be analyzed by the single phase as a “painter”. He continues to peel off the invaded Western culture, pulling away a moderate distance from painting, which itself is very Western, and creates poetic large-scale sculptures and installation works by applying handicraft techniques such as carving, embroidery and pottery of Filipino traditional art, in response to the impact of current political situation on the social outlook of his hometown Lucban, Quezon, and lashes the silent watchers indifferent to the unjust. Moreover, the artist cuts into the deeper exploration of philosophy, life and death from the political metaphors on the outside. After re-reading Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’, artist attests to the possibility of moving out of the shadow of darkness into the blinding light of truth and thus of walking toward to the light of reason, decency, and empathy.
Leslie de Chavez’s scorn against orientalism stems from the bitter colonial history of the entire Southeast Asia, not only because of the cruel atrocities hidden behind, but also the expulsion and replacement of root cultures by that of the West, and this resistance to foreign culture invasion still remains significant today. Arario hopes that this exhibition can provide an alternative perspective to understand the protection of cultural roots and the relentless resistance to invasive cultures in Southeast Asia, which is often overlooked, and also provide us with an instance of learning from the West instead of being assimilated by the West.