Carren's Pitch

Life by Design


Inviting Chaos

Posted by Carren |

Out of all the artists I've interviewed so far, Jana was the first to bring up an artist's struggle to honor her work. Looking back, the question of honoring your life's passion is something every one of us tackles, but rarely do we call the act--honoring. We may call it chasing our dreams, as if it could somehow be possessed, but her choice of words bring out the respect we all must have in the face of our passion.


Text by: Carren Jao
Published: MEGA May 2009

Jana Benitez thrives on the balance between chaos and complete certainty in oneself

“WHAT were you thinking?” were the words scrawled on Jana Benitez’s Walkabout Wonder. Below it came the answer. “I was thinking chaos is not so scary.” Around these words, bold strokes of bright azure, deep black, and contrasting white sinuously dance across the canvas as amorphous figures are engulfed in the miasma.

This serendipitous chaos so convincingly communicated can also be said of Jana Benitez’s life. Graduating Magna Cum Laude in Visual Arts last May from Brown University, Jana returns home and exhibits In Search of Parameters at one of Manila’s most respected galleries, Finale Art File.

It is evident from viewing her works that passion infuses each stroke of her exhibition. Like an inexorable dance, her brush traces movements as smooth as a ballerina going from a passé into an arabesque. Whispers of the past longingly linger in verdant greens and bright blues of Ancient Voices. Simple lines gain an air of eroticism while crossing paths, simultaneously defining borders and giving ground in Embrace Between the Lines.

In the next moment, Jana surprises with fervent dashes bordering on the haphazard, and a flurry of motion ensues in the theatre of the viewer’s imagination. In Chaos Interrupted, one can almost see a line of drummers frenetically pounding on their drums, as an audience submerges itself into an abyss of sound. One starts, as he finally understands; he is an intruder and this is the chaos interrupted.

At only 23 years old, Jana’s work speaks of depth beyond her years. As she answers this writer’s questions, her words are paced and considered, as if struggling for precisely the right expression. Her hands mold the air, willing the words to come. She often speaks in metaphors, understanding that life does not always come with a simple answer.

At 12, she had already exhibited in the old Ayala Museum. Of her beginnings she says, “You know how sometimes you get a cut and only later realize, ‘Ouch! It hurts!’ This cut was made really early… It was very real, very strong… very inevitable.”

She likens her constant challenge in artistry to pottery. “[In pottery, you] slowly suggest and shape but you don’t want to squeeze too hard because it collapses…. The question is, ‘How honest can I remain throughout?’…To have my work as clear as an idea, and still be open to accident.” Perhaps the beauty of her work is rooted not just in the gift of her stroke, but also precisely in this humility before the canvas, as she negotiates the delicate balance between distinct and indeterminate.

She cites Vladimir Nabokov as one of her inspirations explaining, “ He aesthetically constructs this elaborate labyrinth that he sometimes gets lost in and tries to find his way.” As minutes pass between viewer and the canvas, one gets the feeling that Jana is also in the midst of her own labyrinth and we are only too happy to lose ourselves with her.
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