Katrina Cuenca’s “Celestial” features shining, abstract figures that metamorphose before the eyes, bearing an otherworldly lightness that reflects the sky’s transformative nature.
Katrina Cuenca couldn’t have picked a more fitting title for her latest exhibition, Celestial. Upon stepping into the white-walled Galleria Nicolas, it was easy to think—if only momentarily—that one had really entered an otherworldly, celestial plane. Copper pieces that Cuenca had twisted into visceral abstractions bore lustrous paints and glossy finishes. They each exuded a lightness that seemed to defy the laws of physics.
Even the exhibit’s displays served to enhance this breathtaking spectacle of figures. Turntable stands rotated some of the dynamic sculptures, fully showcasing their many angles. Each piece seemed to metamorphose before a viewer’s eyes, their flowing silhouettes shifting with every turn. Meanwhile, Cuenca had created longer pieces that could stand atop thin metal rods on a heavy base. These particular sculptures seemed frozen in a moment of ecstatic yet graceful flight, still yet far from static. Even pieces without stands hung on gallery walls, unencumbered by the earth’s gravity.
A closer look at the works revealed finer details: fabric-like, pleated surfaces that provided more depth, and pearlescent paint whose colors seemed to shift depending on where the light hit. Cuenca created works where light and darkness can play in the truest sense, these elements transforming right in front of a viewer, just as how the sky changes throughout the day.
Cuenca drew inspiration from her family’s move to the far south in the making of these heavenly visions. “We’ve been there for a year and […] the sky is different; looking up at the night sky is different,” she shared in an exclusive interview with Lifestyle Asia. “I know that it [Celestial] was heavily influenced by that environment we’re now in, and that’s something we’re enjoying so much.”
True enough, the artist’s dark-colored pieces were inky black like the night sky, yet their coats of glimmering, iridescent paint resembled stars, turning them into sheaths of galaxies. Meanwhile, light-colored pieces shined like pearls, painting three-dimensional images of vanilla skies with rays of golden sunlight. Red-colored pieces are significant to Cuenca as well, since the color is a favorite of the artist’s, and one she associates with luck.
To the artist, her pieces are far more than decorative. “When I make something, when I make anything, there’s always the intention of giving luck to whoever the piece ends up with,” she stated. Cuenca also wanted viewers to enjoy the tangible nature of her work, encouraging them to touch the exhibit pieces and take in all their textural nuances.
The Many Facets of an Artist
Cuenca is a woman of many talents, being both a painter and sculptor. She’s been painting since the 1990s, and has always incorporated experimentation into her creative process, playing with figures, patterns, and textures that give way to exciting creations. Over the years, the artist has steadily grown into a household name in the local art scene. She’s gone on to hold several well-received solo exhibitions and has participated in a variety of visual art fairs in the country, including ManilaART (2020-2021), MoCAF (2022-2023), and Art Fair Philippines (2023).
Back in 2021, right when the world was in the throes of the pandemic, Cuenca got into the art of sculpting. One can say that the tactile, interactive element of the medium aligned perfectly with the artist’s sense of wonder and love for experimentation. Her studio, which she likens to a personal laboratory of sorts, is a playground of possibilities.
Two Loves, Two Mediums
There’s enough space in Cuenca’s heart for painting and sculpting, as she often switches between the two. “With painting, the sky’s the limit. You can think of anything and all you have to do is manipulate the paint, draw it up, and it’s there. […] The only thing that will hinder you is your imagination and your creativity, that’s why I love it so much,” she told Lifestyle Asia.
“With sculpting, it’s more of the tactile nature of doing it. It’s your whole body that gets into it, especially with something like metal. You’re complete into it, you’re lost in it,” Cuenca stated.
“In painting, you kind of have to plan things out. With sculptures, you can be completely spontaneous—you kind of have to listen to the medium you’re using. It kind of tells you ‘Okay enough, you’re done, this is it, this is me.’ It takes a life of its own, and I love that,” she continued. The pieces in Celestial exemplify this spiritual element of art, proving that an artist can indeed bring a little piece of heaven to earth.
Galleria Nicolas is located at 3F, Greenbelt 5, Legazpi Street, Makati City. For inquiries, contact Galleria Nicolas at +63 936 225 1226 or email gallerianicol[email protected]. You may find Katrina Cuenca on Instagram @katrinacuenca_art and Facebook.
Banner photos courtesy of Galleria Nicolas.