Gale Encarnacion fleshes out the essence of life through bubble gum.
Gale Encarnacion’s work looks like the stuff we’d dissect in our high school labs and the kind we’d dread to see on our dining tables. In their more modest guise, Gale’s installations could appear like collected specimens neatly placed on petri dishes, or they could also make it seem as though internal organs had just been served.
A 2016 graduate of UP Fine Arts, Gale was one of the recipients of this year’s Ateneo Art Awards, along with the likes of Cian Dayrit and Cos Zicarelli. Her winning work “Blow Me” was a thesis project that depicted the fragility of life through chewing gum. “The most memorable comments I’ve received were along the lines of ‘Yuck, ano ‘yan,” she says. “[T]o which I have only ever responded with laughter.”
“The fascination with gum began in third year college when I started using organic or edible material for works.” Gale says. ”It was then that I first fell in love with the idea of art that is not meant to last,” she says, eventually drawing the connection between gum and the fragility of human life.
At first glance, Gale’s work could easily raise a few eyebrows and raise a few questions relating to how we commonly see art: who would want to preserve it? Or much less — in an increasingly market-driven climate — collect it?
Abject art has been around for decades, and it can serve as a cheeky reminder that art doesn’t always aim to charm or please. It rouses emotions, but not necessarily all nice ones. Disgust is primarily a gut reaction of our bodies — often when we encounter things we’ve thrown by the wayside, in order to live our more whitewashed lives. Gum is something we spit, discard, or stick on seats. It’s hardly what we’d think of as “a metaphor for human life and how it’s sustained by breath” until artists compel us to see the link.
“Sometimes it’s enough that art makes you wonder things,” says Gale when asked about contemporary art, which can shift and shock as easily as her fleshy forms. “The local art scene to me is this organism that changes and falls apart and reconstructs itself [in] ways I am only beginning to comprehend,” she adds. “I find it interesting how success in the art world has a lot to do with who you know and how you sell yourself, and even more interesting how different artists navigate the art scene based on their own specific goals.”
While she’s still a young artist at the beginning of her career, Gale’s discomfiting molds bid us to stick around and see what else she’ll be churning out. At Gale’s forthcoming art residency in Singapore, the only certain thing we can look forward to, she says, is that she “will be using gum.”