The Existential Appeal of 'Soloism' in Aesthetics

Manila Bulletin, December 5, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Existential Appeal of 'Soloism' in Aesthetics


In the last three lines of his poem, The Solitary Reaper, William Wordsworth extols the melancholic song of a woman harvesting in the fields of Scotland. The speaker in the poem goes through a transferential loneliness that the solitary reaper sang in her heart when he says: "And, as I mounted up the hill, / The music in my heart I bore, / Long after it was heard no more." An artist, in general, is solitary, not because he wants to escape or avoid the bustling routine of familial or societal life, but to find his own solitude where he can be at home with himself and his art. Paradoxically, it is only in solitude that an artist can see the world with unparalleled vision, exploring his boundless freedom to create. One such artist who immerses himself with recurrent themes of loneliness, solitude, and estrangement is Francisco Pellicer Viri. He epitomizes the organic and intangible state of solitude on his canvas and paper. Unbroken line traverses amid the overlapping mass of planes and colors, self-contained and undefined figure emerging, aloof and distant yet outreaching, like an abandoned child on the street, hungering for human affection. But Viri's works are beyond empirical representations, they are transcendental portrayals of an existential journey born out of a throbbing solitary existence. It is for this reason that his art can be categorized within the vein of 'soloism.' In the language of aesthetics, Soloist Art or solo-art, as coined by this writer, is an artistic principle that perceives life as a solitary struggle, a constant creative struggle to make life sensible amid the irrational realities of human existence. As an artistic idiom, 'soloism' can be expressed in other modes of creative activities, like poetry, music, or performance art. Most often, it manifests the drab reflections of man's harsh conditions in the society. Some elements of "soloism" can be found in the works of painters Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele, and Edward Munch; confessional poets John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Lowell; existentialist philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus, among others. Soloist art is akin to existentialism except that, as an aesthetic principle, it actualizes human freedom and purpose in life through creative activity. "It is a linear philosophy which is trying to express an underlying need for a sense of order due to the psychotic disturbances found in everyday life," Viri describes his art with succinct candor, bereft of sentimentalism. "My images are essentially a personal figurative abstraction which, in the recent years, evolves into one 'unbroken line' of figure." He is one of the few artists who can articulate his mind with cogent opinion and perspicacious acumen. However, amid all his forms and colors is a lonely creator trying to make sense from incongruous circumstances that constantly hound his lonely existence.A bachelor in his 50s, no family, parents, or siblings to anchor his dreams, thoughts, and feelings, he lives an eccentric, solitary life, which is ubiquitous in his works. In fact, there is a very thin line that borders between his life and his aesthetics. His life and his art seem to exist in symbiotic manner, giving a teleological reason for each other's existence. His iconoclastic frame of thinking is reflective of his educational background and assimilated cultures during his travels and stints abroad. Similarly, although he does not identify his creative style and technique to any artistic movements, it is obvious that his works are avant-garde assertions against the conventional. …

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