- This review posted here courtesy of the author, Dunia Ilic.
At first glance, I was struck by Brian Batista’s “Change is Constant” cool, quiet strength and masculinity. It is a striking oil and acrylic painting, depicting a mythical image of Makara-snail at the bottom of the ocean. The piece itself meticulously detailed with each individual hair and each individual drip of water revealed with care. Contrasting the measured and detailed brush strokes, paint is also freely splattered and let to drip from the top of the painting. Inspired by the Tibetan thangkas (scroll paintings); the painting is purposely two-dimensional, almost completely lacking shadows. Each object is outlined, giving it a youthful, cartoon-like feel. Artist’s modern, young and innovative style is contrasted by the primeval subject matter, drawing on the ancient Tibetan and Vedic mythology.
Looking at the painting, I had an intense feeling of abandon. Painted in beautiful hues of blue, the painting made me feel as if I were at the bottom of the ocean, facing the Makara-snail. The snail has an ominous look, sharp bird-like claws and long beard, giving him the look of an ancient wise-man. Oblivious to the waves engulfing him, I imagined the snail slowly moving across the ocean bed, performing rituals and magic like an old shaman. Perhaps it’s his ancient features that give him the look of wisdom, the thick magnificent mane, or the strange body reminiscent of a dinosaur. The snail has an omniscient glare, as if questioning the viewer if they also knew that “Change is Constant”. Makara-snail fearlessly glides on top of the waves; he has no control over the forces of nature, and accepts change and fluidity as the only constant in life. Devoid of any possessions, carrying his shell wherever he goes, the snail has a stoic and composed aura of a monk.
I wonder if the snail is a metaphor for humankind in general, and if his voyage through the ocean represents our own struggles through life. His acceptance of the fluidity of the world around him contrasts our zeal (and ultimate inability) to change the nature’s ancient laws of life and death. If Makara-snail was indeed a metaphor for humankind, it represents a new, more deserving human race, living in a world without greed, self-indulgence and anger.
Batista, Brian. Change is Constant. 2011. Oil and Acrylic on Canvas. Skew Gallery, Calgary. Personal photograph by the artist. Re-printed with permission. JPEG file.