Breaking Boundaries: Martin Genodepa’s Metal Sculptures at NCCA Gallery

By Lucell Larawan

In the hallowed halls of the NCCA Gallery at Intramuros, Manila, where artistic expression finds its truest voice, the solo exhibit of Ilonggo artist Martin Genodepa unfolds as a mesmerizing testament to the limitless possibilities of metal sculpture. In this ethereal showcase, entitled “Something There Is That Doesn’t Love A Wall,” Genodepa’s mastery of form and concept takes center stage, inviting viewers to embark on a profound visual journey.

Genodepa’s interview responses offer a glimpse into the depths of his creative process, illuminating the thought and inspiration that have given life to this remarkable collection. His choice of metal as a medium is not arbitrary; rather, it is a deliberate pursuit of malleability and expressive potential. As he shares, “The only way I see that I can make bigger pieces is by doing metal. Metal is also malleable and it can yield to what I want to accomplish.”

The essence of playfulness coupled with a “subtle degree of gravity” underscores his work, a delicate balance that finds inspiration in the unencumbered drawings and doodles of children. Genodepa’s quest is to distill the human form to its barest essentials, an endeavor that speaks to the heart of his artistic exploration.

Furthermore, his foray into wall sculptures is a testament to his relentless curiosity and a challenge to the conventions of the medium. With an innate desire to push the boundaries of sculpture, particularly in the realm of alto-relievo or high relief, Genodepa invites us to ponder the extent to which a wall-bound piece can transcend its confines.

Intriguingly, Genodepa’s perspective on art is one of profound passion and commitment. He poetically describes it as a “kind of mistress” that beckons him, a call he willingly answers. His administrative role may demand creativity in navigating curatorial and organizational challenges, but within the realm of art, his imagination knows no bounds. Here, he is free to execute his visions without constraint.

In the realm of artistic creation, Genodepa’s process is both intuitive and spontaneous. He rarely relies on preliminary studies, preferring to forge a direct connection between his mind and his hands. This approach ensures that each sculpture is a unique creation, infused with the artist’s distinctive patterns and imbued with the spontaneity of his imagination.

The exhibition’s title, borrowed from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Walls,” serves as a subtle backdrop to Genodepa’s exploration. While Frost’s poem explores the idea of erecting walls to maintain human relationships, Genodepa’s work takes a distinct perspective. It is an ode to breaking free from constraints, an introspective journey into the multifaceted nature of existence.

Within these steel sculptures, viewers may discern echoes of folk narratives and eerie scenes from horror movies, where spirits traverse walls or manifest hauntingly upon them. This adds an otherworldly layer to Genodepa’s work, deepening its emotional resonance and inviting introspection.

However, the narrative of Martin Genodepa extends beyond his remarkable artistry. He has left an indelible mark on the art world through his instrumental role in establishing the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA), where he served as its first Museum Director in ‪2017-2018. Additionally, in 2022, he accomplished the establishment of the UPV Museum of Art and Cultural Heritage (UPV MACH), a significant achievement realized through a 2020 Higher Education Development Fund grant from the Commission on Higher Education.

Genodepa’s artistic prowess has not gone unnoticed, with a string of accolades and recognitions that illuminate his exceptional talent. His journey has been punctuated by milestones such as the Freeman Fellowship for Asian Artists, where he served as an artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center (USA) in 1999. Subsequently, he was named the UP Outstanding Professional in the Visual Arts in 2008, a testament to his contributions to the world of art.

The artist’s journey reached new heights with the Ford Foundation International Fellowship from ‪2009-2011, a recognition of his global impact and artistic vision. In 2013 and 2014, Genodepa was honored with the Jose and Asuncion Joya Professorial Chair for the Arts, solidifying his place among the most distinguished figures in the Philippine art scene.

His artistic journey culminated in his designation as UP Artist I from 2018 to 2020, a prestigious recognition of his continuous dedication to the craft. Most recently, in 2022, he was awarded the One UP Professorial Chair for Creative Work, affirming his enduring commitment to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

As we stand before the evocative sculptures in “Something There Is That Doesn’t Love A Wall,” we are not merely witnessing an exhibition; we are engaging with the life’s work of an artist whose dedication, innovation, and vision have left an indelible mark on the art world. Genodepa’s artistic journey is a testament to the power of creativity and the enduring legacy of those who dare to break down the walls of convention and imagination.

Visitors to the NCCA Gallery, where his exhibition ran until August 31, 2023, were invited to immerse themselves not only in the world of Genodepa’s steel sculptures but also in the narrative of an artist whose life’s work has been celebrated and recognized.

About the Author

Lucell Larawan is a visual artist and has worked as teacher, newspaper columnist, and art and culture researcher and writer despite having earned his BS and MA in Management from UP Visayas. His art reviews and researches have been published in local scholarly publications as well as in peer-reviewed international journals.