'Mark Valenzuela: Liable Eponyms' by Jonathan Olazo, Thirteen Artists Awards 2015 Catalogue, p.32
Mark Valenzuela’s sculptures tell of autobiographical narratives and meditations about moving from one place and calling another home. The mashing of cultures as witnessed by Valenzuela’s eyes is double-edged. The silky earthy tactility of clay exudes warmth and accessibility. In the work’s employment, it depicts something violent and oppressive. One resonant work is a sculpture that depicts dismembered arms that suggests being pulled violently out of their sockets, and a puppet string with its ring around a thumb and the other end running the full length of the arm. Titled Dismembered in Wonderland, the entire piece resembles an artifact from a place and time, or perhaps a specific point of disillusionment. Drawn meticulously on the creamy clay surface are animal-like caricatures and symbolic embellishments that somewhat allude to a receptacle of artifacts like a pharaoh’s tomb. Is it an ode to mortality? It must preempt the dreams of those who want to follow. There is also something very tribal about these drawings, like tattoos emblazoned on a shoulder to identify position and hierarchies in a group or community. This is most likely the age where the diaspora of Filipino men and women has reached its highest percentage and has affected the Filipino family unit. Or in a more artistic bent, the drawn images on Valenzuela’s sculptures tell the story of a young girl named Alice who fell through a rabbit hole and transported to a different time and place. Amidst all of the above, the said work is a succinct portrayal of quiet suffering and silent pain, when one is placed in a corner and rendered powerless.
One of the emerging talents coming out of Dumaguete, Valenzuela was spotted by former 13 Artists Awards curator Bobi Valenzuela during one of the comprehensive art conferences in the region. Currently, the artist now lives and works in Australia.
For the 13 Artists exhibition, the artist-sculptor seeks to unearth the many layers of effects left behind in the wake of Philippine colonizers who have integrated themselves into the fabric of today’s customs and way of life. Valenzuela dissects a collective culture and how it has evolved through those that have subjugated it. Initially described as "tags" and "landmarks" made of clay, the "landmarks" are free-standing and Stonehenge-like monuments that are referred to by Valenzuela as "anthills". The artist suggests a parody through a metaphor: the process recalls the layering of materials that lead to mounds and alludes to the idea of the debris of culture that have blended together and coagulated. The "tags" are made of ceramic and have drawings that illustrate definitive moments in our history, whether for our good or for the worsening of our times.These are proposed to be spread out in curious spots all over the exhibition areas. Entitled Blind Spots, Valenzuela strives to index and make real the causalities of "possession, dominion and colonialism" that have beset us and have become the ugly truths of our habits. This time, art is an instrument for change.