Dangerous Beauty Celebration of liminality, otherworldliness in the grotesque

·3 min read

The grotesque is a concept explored in the arts and literature that is primarily concerned with the distortion and transgression of boundaries. It invokes the sensation of discomfort and unease to its audience.

It is prominently a genre in visual arts; with its initial distorted and sometimes monstrous form translating to magnificence.

“Dangerous Beauty,” a two-day exhibit held in Qube Contemporary Design Center of Cebu from Sept. 9 to 10, explored concepts relating to the liminal, the distortion of the boundary between the grotesque and sublimity. These concepts are explored in collections of photographs, digital collages, botanical arrangements and jewelry.

Exhibit frontrunners Amanda LuYm and Jaime Chua collaborated in presenting to the public pristine artworks that showcase dangers in beauty and beauty amid danger. LuYm, a practicing artist, photographer and designer, shared that since she was a child, she had always been fascinated by the language of flowers.

“I’ve always been fascinated by all kinds of flora. It’s a genre I have been playing with since I was 10 years old. I remember my father putting a camera in my hand and it was the immediate subject I was drawn to. I started with close-up photographs, and that is partly the reason why you can look at my artworks from the point of view of a child. You can see a young person’s exploration into space and the space is a garden,” said Amanda.

LuYm’s artworks reference each other in one way or another. Two of her most prominent pieces titled, “The Queen” and “Glinda” dichotomize each other in terms of theme and composition. It represents the binary of a woman well explored in the realm of culture and arts: the angel and the monster.

“Glinda,” which LuYm admitted was inspired by the good witch from “The Wizard of Oz,” is everything that opposes “The Queen.”

Glinda is caring and warm while the queen, as represented in LuYm’s art, is dangerous and standoffish.

“The Queen,” also represents the aloof and protective facet of a woman, condenses the entire thesis of the exhibit: danger is compelling and it draws you in. It scares you but you can’t also look away.

When asked if her arts are solely of feminine inspiration, Amanda replied: “Of course. I wouldn’t necessarily say I only focus on the feminine. Everyone has a duality: women, men, and non-binary people. Liminality comes into play. The world is constantly evolving and so are we.”

Chua, a self-acclaimed “plantito,” is a landscape artist and architect. He expressed his passion for indigenous plants and flowers stems from it being an overlooked treasure in the country.

“Not a whole lot of people appreciate the treasure of flowers and plants. We have the notion that imported plants and flowers hold superiority over local ones, but that isn’t the entire case. To raise awareness and appreciation for these indigenous plants, I grew them and multiplied them. Even foreigners hold more appreciation for the local flora and prefer it over their own. I wanted fellow Cebuanos to hold the same appreciation,” said Chua.

Chua also believes that tending to plants and flowers is an art form in itself. “You’d have to know what they need and be creative with it. These are the things you need to master and dabbling in art is similar. His interest in botanical care started when he was a child, mainly influenced by his grandmother; now it’s his life’s work.

Beauty can sometimes be dangerous. In order to fully grasp the beauty of an experience, it is imperative not only to experience sublime delight but also the grotesque; the fine boundary between them is what makes living worthwhile.