Mukhang Kulang

May mga bagay na nawawala sa buhay natin na maaari pa nating balikan,
minsan naman ay nawawala na ang mga ito nang tuluyan. Nang humintong
panandalian ang mundo dahil sa pandemya, maraming Nagbago… Nawala… Nagkulang…

-Ryan Jara



Mukhang Kulang…

Ryan Jara’s seventh solo exhibition, plays on the homograph for the Filipino word mukha, which means either face or like. Kulang, on the other hand, directly translates to deficiency, a lack. These words put together present a literal description of Jara’s paintings: faces with missing parts, and a depiction of the usual scenes or pre-pandemic activities lacking from our daily lives due to physical distancing and precautionary health measures. Lost features boggle the mind, as our neurons try to supply the missing noses and mouths needed to create a semblance to the picture of humanity we are familiar with. This is life now, two years into the pandemic. We only see silhouettes of the lower half of faces, obscured as they are by coverings that protect from the indiscriminate and deadly clutches of the coronavirus. Even if we do go out and run into people we think we know, we experience double takes and doubt. The only features we are left seeing, we barely recognize.


Jara paints the people closest to him as both documentation and visual representation of the personal, playing freely with proportion and placement. Under lockdown with immediate family, the artist acquires a deeper understanding of their needs and wants. Innocent questions from his children become opportunities for the creation of new works, with one asking why he cannot go to the playground, and the other missing going to regular classes. As one parent, a senior citizen, bemoans the fact that she cannot return to the cinema to watch free movies, the other has to come to terms with an accident that now binds him to the use of crutches. Memories of loved ones stay with one pining for somebody important to his life, as another tries to hold on to the little remembrances of the sea that she still has left. The loss of a business, of quality time and bonding moments with other, now distant siblings– these are now gone, with only distant traces of reminiscence remaining, and faint hope left for recovery.


It is this hope, however, that underscores Jara’s works. Though his subjects’ eyes show us a whole spectrum of emotions from grief to yearning, desire to resignation, and pain to resolution, the artist pairs awareness with acceptance. In a candid conversation, he even muses, “perhaps all these needed to happen, we needed to go through these things. These experiences gave all of us a chance to take a pause, to think and realize what really matters most in our lives.” Times have changed, but we manage to cope. Going back to the places that used to entertain and educate us will still exist when all this is over. And until we see each other’s full faces once again, perhaps we should content ourselves that we at least have eyes that still see.


Ryan Jara resides and maintains his studio in Bacoor City, Cavite, firmly ensconced within the NCR Plus bubble. A consistent participant in national art competitions, he has won several, with his works being cited in the Nokia Art Awards, Philippines/ASEAN Art Awards, and Philippine Art Awards. He actively takes part in group exhibitions in real life and online.


 Kaye O’Yek