In the Taoist belief, there is a singular source that animates all things. This is called the “Tao,” which roughly translates to “the way.” The way is the means by which man comes into harmony with everything. Harmony is achieved through being spontaneous, natural, simple and through, as the enigmatic aphorism states, “doing by not-doing,” presumably by letting go of all desires and letting the “Tao” do the doing. This appears to be at the heart of the collection of works by Luisito Balmes for his solo exhibit “Element.” A collection of round abstract expressionist works, they take on the idea of the famous symbol of oneness in Taoism, the round “yin and yang.” Symbolizing the everlasting opposition of forces that arise from the primal source that drives creation, it emphasizes oneness in all things, despite the differences that arise.
As contemporary works of abstract expressionism, Balmes is also concerned with the sublime. Although the sublime as a concept dates to the late 17th century, art critic Robert Rosenblum points out the preoccupation of abstract expressionism with the feelings of awe that arise from experiencing the ineffable. This in itself is especially important now, as we need to be reminded that there is something more “beyond the ‘eat-sleep-work’ of this cruel life,” as the band After Image aptly describes. However, in Balmes’ work, we are celebrating not a way of seeing—as many art movements have done in the past—but a way of making. In his effortless canvases we remember the joy of discovery when we encounter things for the first time: in his instance, how paint flows, how canvas absorbs it, and what colors are and how it affects us. It is discovering the very nature of his materials and collaborating with them—coaxing them to merge together, and not impose some pattern or some idea on them. With his act of making by not making we are tied to something primordial—that unifiying element that exists in all things—a harmony that can only be understood when we let go, and just go with the flow.