Galerie Stephanie’s latest group show celebrates childhood’s hidden realms

The exhibition ‘Hidden Realms’ features the works of four visual artists: Aldy Aguirre, Kim Borja, Carla Gamalinda, Carl Modelo, and Angelica So.

The show, in its childlike and airy splendor, intends to reflect “landscapes and characters of half-truths, abstracted emotions, and entangled narratives,” as stated by the exhibition notes. Cotton candy dreamscapes, jammy hues, mischievous figures. Bright terrains with an undercurrent of secrecy.

This burbling tension is all over the show, infused in these wispy and surrealistic canvases. The show offers a soft complexity, light yet subtly layered.

Carla Gamalinda, “guava seekers II,” oil on canva
Carla Gamalinda, “guava seekers II,” oil on canvas.
Aldy Aguirre, “Here With Ghosts,” watercolor on acid-free paper
Aldy Aguirre, “Here With Ghosts,” watercolor on acid-free paper

Aldy Aguirre’s watercolor works channel a nostalgic tranquility thrumming with a lingering sadness. “Here With Ghosts” finds a child standing atop a huge bird, looking over a blue, lonely expanse. Talismanic orbs of yellow and pink hover quietly above the child, like guides from another world. Meanwhile, Carla Gamalinda’s “guava seekers” series showcases a shrouded tropical jungle scene with leaves obscuring a figure’s face. These works, lush and tender, allude to spaces beyond our comprehension, enriched by a vibrant use of color. These works point to escape as an energizing act of renewal.

When we get more straightforward pieces in the exhibit, like Carl Modelo’s acrylic paintings on wood of childish faces or Angelica So’s Bunny narratives, the show starts to lose some of its magic. Cloying in their literal-mindedness, these pieces, despite following the exhibit’s thread of whimsy and wonder, fall flat with their treacly aesthetics. Modelo’s “Goldie,” a board showcasing a hand-drawn, squiggly image of a child with the phrase “Dream High” in glittering stickers, lacks the allure of the show’s title. It’s a sterile, overly sentimental statement.

Angelica So, “The Golden Pearl 1: Remembering a friend,” acrylic on canvas

Elsewhere, Angelica So, whose works usually draw on the adventures of an amorphous, pearly white character named Bunny, treats friendship as her focal point. “A happily ever after from the great beyond back to a friendship’s laughter,” reads one title. “I wish my friend would come back to Bunny Meadows from the hereafter,” reads another. Though the concept is refreshing within the context of the show, So’s works remain too schmaltzy, dripping with slush and absurdly dazzling colors. These gestures ultimately distract from the work’s stark emptiness, the overall message adrift.

Taken altogether, Hidden Realms is a mixed bag, filled with works that come alive in their concealment and privacy, while others fall short in their blatant representations of wonder. Perhaps childhood feels that way, too, sometimes. There are the captivating moments filled with the highs of new experience when escapism becomes a bridge to growth. Other times, childhood is a total drag, and you just can’t wait for it to end.

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