Painting by numbers with Marlon Magbanua

Painting by numbers
By Walter Ang
June 21, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Marlon Magbanua will hold a painting exhibit with a video and sound installation at White Wall Gallery titled "Rooms" where he explores notions of how color, sound and movement can be quantified and then, turning the idea on its head, qualified into art.

The thirty-something artist almost sounds like a scientist or college professor when he explains the concept of his show. He has long held a theory wherein he believes "every color corresponds to a sound and vice-versa."

Magbanua points out that this idea is most apparent in computer software used to manipulate images and sounds. Musicians, DJs and recording engineers know there is math and numbers inherent in musical notes, pitch and octaves; they use numbers in mixing and editing sound. Advertising and publishing professionals are familiar with the number coding in control color hues and shades in computers and preparing colored inks for printing.

"Colors and sounds all have corresponding numbers. If you substitute a number value for every color and for every sound, you can find the equivalent sound for every color and vice-versa," he says.

This scheme came together for him when he stumbled across the works of Peter Meijer's work on "seeing with sounds." "Meijer created a program that helps blind people `see' what's in their environment using sound. His work inspired the concept of my show," says Magbanua.

For this one-man show, his fifth, Magbanua will install a video camera "to capture all the elements of what's going on in the gallery and, in real time, a software program will translate movement into sound."

He adds, "The whole show is about the `experience' of being interpreted through sound and into my canvas." If the exhibit is beginning to sound like a technology showcase, don't be alarmed. Magbanua is all about the feelings intrinsic to his abstracts.

"My paintings are filled with emotions. I compare them to songs that were created and inspired by emotions," he says. It seems Magbanua has a lot of it going on right as he is working with canvasses that are bigger compared to his previous works.

"But size doesn't matter. What is important to me is the satisfaction after finishing each piece. It's like making love," he adds.

His own love affair with painting came about as a culmination of years of self exploration. He loved to draw as a child. In college, when he occasionally cut classes, he'd visit galleries or hang out in Luneta Park to people watch and sketch.

Iloilo-born and Cavite-based, he worked briefly as a graphic artist and as a musician in several bands. "But I couldn't see myself in these lines of work," he says. "I tried to figure out who I am and what I really wanted to do. I found it in painting. With painting I'm able to combine my passion for music and what I've learned in graphic design."

Now that he's found what he's been looking for, he proclaims, "I have no intention of doing paintings just only to please other people for them to buy my works. I do what I want to do. The best part is, I'm happy."

He enjoys the discovery process of threshing out his concepts into his paintings. "My work doesn't fall into any particular genre. Maybe you can call it sound art but it's beyond music. There's no exact definition of sound art anyway," he says.

Nonetheless, he does not overanalyze the process. In his abstractions using acrylic, acrytex and graphite, Magbanua notes that his colors, strokes and volume of layers are all the result of his moods. "It's like composing a song," he says. "Songs have colors, you just have to feel it."

There is no doubt that music plays an integral part in Magbanua's creative process. In most of his paintings, one notices a consistent motif that's almost a literal translation of sound in visual form: a parabola always seems to be present, a single arching black sound wave connecting swathes of colors. "The parabola is a visual sound. It pertains to a fast time signature of sound," he says.

It's a bit disarming to find out that he prefers to paint in silence. "I don't listen to music when I paint," he says. "I want it to be quiet because the music in my heart and mind is what I paint."

Given his varied passions and options for output, Magbanua feels that he might eventually explore multimedia art or new media art. "The discipline would be cross-disciplinary or multidisciplinary since I work with performance art, sound art and painting. I'm still searching for a software program that will give justice to my ideas," he says.

"For now, I enjoy painting. Maybe in time, when my concept is ripe and if I'm able to create art and combine it with a software program, I can make a breakthrough in science," he says with a wink. "I'll make a program that will decode a painting that actually contains a hidden password for a military operation."

"Rooms" opens on June 26. Whitewall Gallery is at 7467 Bagtikan Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City. Call 710-7439.

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