by Angela Gabrielle Fabunan
What is a study but an amalgamation of thoughts? In art, studies are done in preparation for the final piece, almost as research. These thought renderings are like scratch work in the culmination of a thematic project. Studies lend a hand, an ear, or an eye, to the final output—
the painter can then visualize all aspects of a subject,much like the drafts of a writer. For Picasso, taking bits and pieces of what will later be known as “Guernica” breathed life into his studies. Yet, Brandon Aguiar gives a twist to the word “study.” What if, the audience is compelled to ask, the study is in its finality a finished work of art?
Brandon Aguiar is an artist preoccupied with thought. In his work, we see the painstaking ordeal of the mind in action. In his Study series, he shows a keen awareness of the inner workings of the mind—what we see when we stare at a house, who watches us from afar, what we intake from what we read. He takes his hand to both the fantastic and the mundane—and waves (see Power Smoothies Study).
His subjects literally study. One such subject, a bird in Mating Birds, is glancing intently at a “Mating Birds Manual,” reading the fine print: “…positions…” in a backdrop of green-as-green-can-be leaves. Perhaps, we are left to imagine, the bird just needs some advice about his mate. The bird, in all his fantastical perching and imaginings, takes on an anthropomorphic stance on love—looking at a self-help book.
The paintings themselves transport us in a world that portrays the inner being influenced by the outer perspective. In another study, Man Eater Study, a girl is looking for tips from a “Man-Eater” book, whose cover reads “She’s a man eater.” On the cover, a siren/mermaid’s tail shyly dips into the spine of the book, which is half-covered by the rainbow-stocking-clad legs of the girl reading the book. In Shoe Fly Don’t Bother Me, a shoe-fly looks at a book called Taking Things Literally, while he swats a literal shoe flying in midair away from him. Even at his funniest and most sarcastic as this, Aguiar looks at life at an interesting angle; he is preoccupied with painting his subjects with the depth and vigor of researching like bookworms the problems of their life. Ironic, playful, and vividly rendered, Aguiar is a master of these meta-studies.
Aguiar paints in a palette that is vividly alive, dark hues contrasted with bright yellows. His palette reflects the inner world of the imagination rather than the outer world of practical externalities—what is dark is solidly, greyishly dark, and what is bright shines with fanciful light. In the darkly-lit It’s Just A Stray Study, a stray cat peeks out of a garbage can on one side, while on the other, a book entitled It’s Just a Stay Cat leans in, catching our attention towards the obvious. Yet, above them, we clearly see bits and pieces of a man’s legs and hands peeking out of a garbage can. Even this, his most noir piece, we see the humor in the story—what we see is different from what we read.
What is most interesting about Aguiar’s pieces is the dynamic between the imagined and the real. At times, we as an audience see the story that the subjects depicted do not. Sometimes, we see only half of the story, and must concoct for ourselves the rest. For example, in a continuation of It’s Just A Stray Study (with the play on word on “stray studies”) a couple looks out into a house on which the inside resides in a thought bubble. Parts of the roof and the green windowsills can be seen, but otherwise, what we see is the projected image that the couple sees—the interior of the house. A living room, a bathroom, bedroom and stairs come alive at the thought of the house. The subjects are thinking, and we along with them.
This is what shines in Aguiar’s work—the breathtaking detail in which he looks at the inner world’s reflection on the outer narrative, whether it be a self-aware mating bird, an eager man-eater, or a bystander cat. It’s cerebral and expressive at the same time, yet it warns against this very act of over-thinking and over-feeling. Perhaps what we need more in this world is Aguiar’s vision of self-awareness, in order to not to take ourselves too seriously all the time. We all have a little more “studying” to do.
To see Brandon Aguiar’s collection, please visit http://mrbrandonaguiar.tumblr.com/