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Mugna Art Gallery is a platform dedicated to promoting local culture and fostering creativity through supporting emerging and undiscovered artists, offering a space for artistic expression and interaction with the community and wider audiences.

December 16, 2023 - January 28, 2024

In & Out

Rey Labarento
Mugna Gallery
Valencia, Negros Oriental, Philippines

About

Rey Labarento is an observer, taking notes of people wherever he goes. In his paintings, he juxtaposes familiar yet blurred backgrounds with white silhouettes of people animated by colourful lines via canvas string. Creative as it already is, his bag of tricks is not limited to these paintings, as he is also — and actually foremost — eager to draw.

With a sketchbook as a constant companion, he approaches this task in a distinct order: draw an outline — a negative space if you will — then proceed to detail the human inside it.

In a way, we can view this as core to Labarento’s body of work, where as naive or innocent his depictions may be, they are all products of a highly observant practice and a keen eye for subtle nuances. The first step of setting outer lines echoes the human tendency to first judge from the outside: the proverbial cover of the book. We tend to shape people according to our own expectations. And then he subverts this as he proceeds to illustrate the humanity that he sees. Their features, limbs, and clothes adapt and adjust to whatever the initial shape is. Certainly there is still conjecture and assumption at this point, but those go hand in hand in our daily encounters with strangers, and perhaps even with those we have already known for a while. The end product is a concise, and often humorous vignette of the daily lives of Dumaguete people (and sometimes from elsewhere).

This brings us to the backdrop of Labarento’s mise-en-scène: Valencia Plaza. Cozily nested outside the hustle and bustle that is Dumaguete City proper, it is laid out in the typical colonial plaza plan: with the municipal hall, church, school, and various establishments that benefit from proximity to the centre of the town; and of course, right smack in the middle of it all is the open field that includes a playground, basketball court, and quite significantly, home to a flock of pigeons that are local attractions in their own right. This is all within the same area where the weekly Paunay Sunday market is held, and where there is a Christmas Tree that serves as a beacon to all those who look forward to “Valencia and chill.”

For the exhibition “In & Out,” Labarento gives us a glimpse into his process that tackles what he sees inside and outside people, and these works are installed in a simulacra of the plaza, placing the subjects both “inside” their comfort zones yet still “outside” their locales. Even the framing extends the notion of being in or out.

When all is said and done, humans are much more complex than we take for granted. Rey Labarento’s continued explorations of his beloved hometown and its people serve as a reminder — in all its innocence and simplicity —to look beyond the surface and see others the way we would like to be seen ourselves.

Rey Labarento (b.1995) captures the unpretentious gestures, mundane daily routines, and serene beauty of Valencia, Negros Oriental, through his easily recognizable depictions of its people and scenery. Utilizing a diverse range of materials, including paper, and terracotta, his signature embellishment of outlining thread highlights relatable scenes that elevate the everyday.

Labarento has exhibited locally in Dumaguete City — with his first solo exhibition at Shelter — as well as domestically in Iloilo City, and Cebu City in the Visayas, and in Makati City in Luzon. He also was part of Mugna Gallery’s presentation at Visayas Art Fair 2022. He lives and works in Valencia, Negros Oriental.

Rey Labarento is an observer, taking notes of people wherever he goes. In his paintings, he juxtaposes familiar yet blurred backgrounds with white silhouettes of people animated by colourful lines via canvas string. Creative as it already is, his bag of tricks is not limited to these paintings, as he is also — and actually foremost — eager to draw.

With a sketchbook as a constant companion, he approaches this task in a distinct order: draw an outline — a negative space if you will — then proceed to detail the human inside it.

In a way, we can view this as core to Labarento’s body of work, where as naive or innocent his depictions may be, they are all products of a highly observant practice and a keen eye for subtle nuances. The first step of setting outer lines echoes the human tendency to first judge from the outside: the proverbial cover of the book. We tend to shape people according to our own expectations. And then he subverts this as he proceeds to illustrate the humanity that he sees. Their features, limbs, and clothes adapt and adjust to whatever the initial shape is. Certainly there is still conjecture and assumption at this point, but those go hand in hand in our daily encounters with strangers, and perhaps even with those we have already known for a while. The end product is a concise, and often humorous vignette of the daily lives of Dumaguete people (and sometimes from elsewhere).

This brings us to the backdrop of Labarento’s mise-en-scène: Valencia Plaza. Cozily nested outside the hustle and bustle that is Dumaguete City proper, it is laid out in the typical colonial plaza plan: with the municipal hall, church, school, and various establishments that benefit from proximity to the centre of the town; and of course, right smack in the middle of it all is the open field that includes a playground, basketball court, and quite significantly, home to a flock of pigeons that are local attractions in their own right. This is all within the same area where the weekly Paunay Sunday market is held, and where there is a Christmas Tree that serves as a beacon to all those who look forward to “Valencia and chill.”

For the exhibition “In & Out,” Labarento gives us a glimpse into his process that tackles what he sees inside and outside people, and these works are installed in a simulacra of the plaza, placing the subjects both “inside” their comfort zones yet still “outside” their locales. Even the framing extends the notion of being in or out.

When all is said and done, humans are much more complex than we take for granted. Rey Labarento’s continued explorations of his beloved hometown and its people serve as a reminder — in all its innocence and simplicity —to look beyond the surface and see others the way we would like to be seen ourselves.

Rey Labarento (b.1995) captures the unpretentious gestures, mundane daily routines, and serene beauty of Valencia, Negros Oriental, through his easily recognizable depictions of its people and scenery. Utilizing a diverse range of materials, including paper, and terracotta, his signature embellishment of outlining thread highlights relatable scenes that elevate the everyday.

Labarento has exhibited locally in Dumaguete City — with his first solo exhibition at Shelter — as well as domestically in Iloilo City, and Cebu City in the Visayas, and in Makati City in Luzon. He also was part of Mugna Gallery’s presentation at Visayas Art Fair 2022. He lives and works in Valencia, Negros Oriental.

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