(by Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez)

At the outset, one could say Clouds and Wings's ether-evoking tone gets quickly offset by its various articulations on the workings of terra firma. And let it not be forgotten that this is as much about pairings once rent and presently in detente.

That these works (and art in general) come with specific histories while taking part in crafting new, hopefully redemptive, alternate stories is most certainly in the air here. That promise keeps afloat through a mixture of tenacity, faith, and a healthy dose of savvy. Perhaps, in the end, it will have as much to do with our and the artists' willingness to engage each other as it is about the intransigence of other hemispheric forces that have designs of their own.

Like many elsewhere bound Filipinos, Alwin Reamillo, for the better part of the past decade chalked up a not insubstantial amount of air miles while negotiating home between the Philippines and Australia. Amidst those comings and goings and even prior, one could sense his grasping for anchors paired with gears to shift with in response to the nuances of a now 30-year-old yet still restless practice. To say that each and every transition and project transacted thereon flowed unproblematically would be wholly untruthful.

Logically plumbing his familial roots, Reamillo called upon an inclination toward piling on referent upon referent in summoning the interstices between his father's defunct piano-making trade with the vicissitudes of globalizing industry. His Mang Emo+Mag-himo Grand Piano Project, which began in earnest at a time when the artist had finally decided on moving back to the Philippines, is a continuing evocation of contending tropes such as lineage, transformation, and re-creation. The impromptu feel of salvaged piano parts juxtaposed against pop culture detritus strewn across floors and walls and/or surreptitiously protruding out of the musical instrument's crevices and appendages hint at the toying that goes on in the artist's mental playpen. The project's more recent incarnations draw too upon Hindu mudras allusive of dexterous finger movement and evocations of positionality while serving as directionals that not so subtly suggest how one gets bearings outside of the self in all its fragmented complexity.

Hinged upon a parallel horizon (pun intended), Perth-based Juliet Lea's dot painting take-offs are part eye test, part-Rorschach, part-op art diptychs which yield the iconic contours of mushroom clouds from seminal nuclear tests and WWII bombings. Running the gamut of sites from Nagasaki to Bikini Atoll, Juliet counts on simultaneously stark and obscured form along with the visual pull and innocuous lure of color to extend the encounter into reminiscences upon once lived upon land since nuked and laid barren, and bodily spaces violated down to their minutiae by forces exterminating life in a plethora of dimensions. The pieces, coming out of her Colourblind Disasters in 2008, appear along with Juliet's cloud drawings upon books and a mixed media piece, Garden of Delights which references Hieronymous Bosch's seminal work.

Specifically in her Colourblind series, the recurring images of massed-up atmospheric gases, ironically point skyward when at the core of the nuclear question is exploiting her home country's underground uranium reserves. Drawing upon exchanges about Australia's becoming Co-chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Review Conference this year, Juliet takes on the symbolic leavings of not so distant hubris—apocalyptic aberrations that are not just bodily evident but more disturbingly, increasingly encrusted unto the collective psyche. The artist Steven Holland writes on one particular work in this suite on show: “she is concerned however that the toxic effects of greed, control, hatred, intolerance, and misery are beginning to appear in the microscope.”

Layered unto the individuated paths taken by these two artists, what perhaps may be similarly productive to explore in Clouds and Wings is how a project such as this cues us into the dynamics of collaboration. The creative life of Reamillo and Juliet was a good strong run of six years (1993-1999) and whether that stream of work will see light again appears to be an open question at this juncture. Given the inevitable grating of ego against ego, mindset against mindset, such tactical joining of practices borne as much from tangling as from acquiescence, registers to this mind how easily tales of the much vaunted bayanihan spirit stirs up the problematic flattening of difference and this not just between Reamillo and Juliet but also presumably plays into similar undertakings compelled by vision and passion.

Particularly in invoking the rubric of social sculpture, one hopes this and other such jabs at up-ending artworld mechanisms that feed off star complexes and facile stylistic branding do not merely ultimately end up as instrumentalist accretion. After all, given the two artists' apparently consistent openness to collaborative art practice and thus to effacing singularity, their individual professional biographies marked by instances of collaboration beyond Reamillo and Juliet, one may reasonably expect that such creative strategies--evoking both the additive and reductive, alongside the obviously shared propensity for parodic bricolage—would continue to promise dense encounters and re-encounters in this current and future sites of circulation.

At this present moment, Juliet's more overtly political voice registers resoundly through a patent shift from printmaking to painting references from both biography and the iconically Australian (a stream of indigenous painting still actively practiced in the former English colony and still current commonwealth state embroiled in global shifts in commerce and imperial ambition). Reamillo, on his end literally and figuratively picks up the pieces of broken narratives surrounding his father's defunct piano-making workshop, counting on the grand piano's winged form to meander into visual and textual discourse on change and transformation with intended tangents into nation and the problematic mapping of territory.

Perhaps then all this enticement to shift positions--up-down, in-out, may be taken as suggestive of a more dynamic, rounded out thinking and doing, in an attempt to reckon with imposed ends and organic parameters, with humane and tenable space, in piecing together what's left over from missteps, frustrated ventures, and renewed bids to overcome.

In many senses, Clouds and Wings is a re-construction--of past collaboration, of crafted and re-made objects laden with sticky questions of personal and collective history. In the barest sense, it is an unequivocal declaration of how tales of re-presentation are hardly ever only about blissful ignorance and thoughtless forgetting.