The Philippines as absurd Wonderland

Painter Tin Garcia with bowed head

In eight oil on shaped canvas paintings (two ofthem diptychs), painter Tin F. Garcia expresses “the surreal and illogical goings-on in this country and everywhere else in the world.” She uses Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland books as her metaphor for they “resonate even more deeply, with even more creative people.”

In her ongoing show “Alice Isn’t Real” at the Pablo Galleries at the Fort, Bonifacio Global City, Garcia added a “sculptural element” by seeking the help of a good canvas maker to shape her surface. She explained, “The intention was for the canvas to become more than just a surface on which to apply paint. I wanted its form to become part of the narrative so it doesn’t just confine the work. For example, the mushroom stems are like extensions of the feet I painted on them, kind of like the outstretched legs of a supine person. The canvas shapes are inspired by elements from Alice in Wonderland that are easily recognizable.”

Asked why the Wonderland series remains her great obsession, she answered, “It has never failed me. I can pick it up any time, go to a random page, and find something that will resonate with this bipolar mind. With the absurdity of the times, a story with plenty of conundrum can help me anchor my sanity through an Alice lens.”

She continued, “Like Alice, it’s like there’s always something new to discover no matter how many times, through the years, I’ve read and re-read the books. I am far from being the only artist the book has inspired. In fact, I only need to look for hashtags with the Alice theme and see so much art produced with symbolisms of Wonderland.”

This fine arts graduate of the University of the Philippines believed that the Alice series is a good metaphor for the times, saying, “Alice means a lot to me personally, but I realized the book(s) are also relevant the present political climate. Everything is absurd. And we have a leader who’s all too fond of being off with people’s heads.”

Did she find the touches of cruelty in the Alice stories strangely inviting? She replied, “Yes. The baby oysters that got eaten because they trusted the Walrus and the Carpenter really got to me. But then again, it’s a cautionary tale about strangers, so maybe it isn’t so bad.”


Asked if the painting “So Many of Us, So Many of Us” alluded to the extra-judicial killings that have marred the Duterte Presidency, she said, “While the imagery definitely references the victims of EJKs piling up in the morgues, I think the piece is more a commentary on authoritarianism in general. Most victims of authoritarian rule are nameless, faceless. To counter that, I added a tag to the foot of the victim, as if to give it a name and in some strange way, a voice.”


The title of the work is from poet Sylvia Plath’s poem about mushrooms and how these thrive on so little:

Perfectly voiceless,

Widen the crannies,

Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,

On crumbs of shadow,

Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.

So many of us!

So many of us!

Garcia loves the lines : “We are shelves, we are / Tables, we are meek, / We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers / In spite of ourselves. / Our kind multiplies: We shall by morning / Inherit the earth. / Our foot's in the door.”

Asked which of the Wonderland characters she identified with the most and why, she answered, “The baby oysters, sometimes, for being too trusting. Alice, when she shrinks and feels helpless and useless and can only get things done by crying or eating and/or drinking. Also the dormouse because of my suspected (but undiagnosed) narcolepsy.”

Garcia has had five solo shows to date and since 2009, has been regularly exhibiting either as a solo artist or as part of a group of other artists. She works mainly with mixed media paintings on canvas but also does installation art. Her themes revolve around death, domesticity, bondage, fetish and women's issues.

“Alice Isn’t Real” is on view until July 22 at Pablo Fort, located at C-11 South of Market,

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Gallery hours are from 12 noon to 7 p.m., Tuesdays to Saturdays.#

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