State of Nature

The Outdoor Murals of Manhattan Parkview Tower

Waterfall

I had myself readmitted to my Master’s program this semester, under the condition that I have to take two extra courses, as a penalty for overstaying in the program. One of those courses is an art criticism class. This is an exercise in “description,” from that class.


In a prime section of a commercial center in Quezon City stands a waterfall. 

Or rather: a painting of a waterfall, a mural to be even more specific. The mural is about 10 feet tall and it extends across the three walls of the space – a vestibule crammed between two restaurants in the New Frontier Theater, a self-described “classic landmark of the ‘60s”. 

At the bottom of the mural, where the wall meets the floor, the artist has rendered a calm river in in acrylic and gouache, pebbles peeking through its surface. This river continues across the floor, where it has been scratched by and scuffed by the shoes of numerous passersby, and is occasionally littered with cigarette butts and other bits of trash. To the sides of the room are plant boxes which also house the bright yellow spotlights used to illuminate the mural.

The waterfall itself at the center of the mural is a valiant attempt at rendering the violent foaming gush of falling water. It is flanked by a forested mountainside, and above that, the blue sky peeking through the slotted windows of the building’s exhaust room. With the exhaust is behind the painting, the viewer might (above the din of foot traffic and your usual ambient mall noise) link the perpetual drone of industrial fans to the roar of falling water. This exhaust room also happens to be the very reason why this painted vestibule cannot be rented out to other commercial tenants. 

To a casual viewer, the work suggests nature, suggests peace, suggests the spaces undisturbed by humanity – spaces that could not be farther from where we are, in Araneta Center. 

If one were to walk just a little further, they would find themselves in Manhattan Parkview Tower; curiously named because while, yes, it is a tower, the park for which it offers a view is nowhere to be found. So while a Parkview suggests the presence of a park, the mural in turn seems to say, “this is the only park we have.” 

Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

One thought on “State of Nature”

  1. You’ve probably already read it but Stephen Greenblatt’s late 80s piece, ‘Towards a Poetics of Culture,’ in particular the bit where he talks about being on a bridge with a picture of the bridge on it etc, might suit this.

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