DREAMS and their reflection of reality—this is at the heart of Margaret Rodriguez’ exhibit,The Oneironaut, which means, “one who explores the world of dreams.”

Launched last Jan.11 at Tala Gallery on Tomas Morato Street, Quezon City, Oneironaut runs until the end of the month and features recent works of Rodriguez, a UST Fine Arts in Painting graduate of 2000. Oneironaut is her 3rd solo exhibit.

Rodriguez’ works is a showcase of Asian iconography with key references to Indian and Indonesian art. One painting, “Tribute to Pacita,” depicts an exquisitely detailed wayang, an ethnic puppet used to tell stories in Indian, Indonesian and Malaysian cultures. The artist says that “Tribute” is her way of showing gratitude to Batanes-based artist Pacita Abad, whom she recognizes as her greatest influence.

Indeed, Eastern art manifests in Rodriguez’ paintings—from the whimsical “…And Clara Jumps Over the Moon,” showing a Carabao soaring above a very round moon, to “Tribute to Creativity,” an example of trapunto painting, where the canvas is stuffed to give the work a three-dimensional effect.

But what is remarkable of Rodriguez is how she anchors her paintings—dreamlike as they are—on ruminations about her life, Oneironaut being partly autobiographical.

According to the artist, this show is incredibly personal because she left the city and retreated to the province to truly see into herself and “uncover her psyche,” without getting subjected to the modern urban life. And the result is a collection of around 15 works, all both surreal and definitive accounts of Rodriguez as a person.

“Inner Struggle,” for instance, is a metaphor of the personal conflicts in a human being. A man appears to be in deep thought, with a battle scene from the Mahabharata etched on the evening sky behind him. The artist says that like two warring ideas in a person, neither side is right nor wrong. Rather, they are both fighting to be understood. Also, the constellations are done in a subdued tone, which shows that man’s war with himself is largely unseen by others.

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“I find that many of my personal struggles are inward,” Rodriguez said in Filipino. “I wanted to concretize this [through ‘Inner Struggle’],”

Another painting of a difficult period in her life is “Magical Mystery Tour.” The artist says that it symbolizes a time when she could not make finish any work at all. The twisted trees represent the dearth of creativity and the landing boat points to her residency in Batangas and to the hope of finding inspiration in a remote place.

Lauded as the most powerful painting in the exhibit, “Still Playing” is also Rodriguez’ favorite in the series, and it summarizes her basic beliefs about art. The painting, a silhouette of a woman playing the violin inside a cage, is a representation of the artist who strives to create despite trying situations. According to the artist, her father forbade all his children from taking artistic pursuits like music and the visual arts, because he did not see these as worthy pursuits. But she persisted, and she is grateful that she did. “Still Playing,” according to her, is a call to artists to strive, especially in a country like the Philippines, where art is considered a luxury and impractical.

“I want to show that no matter where you put the artist, he will try and make art,” she said. “For me, it’s all about defying your circumstance.”

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