Together with Noga and Orion, Polaris belongs to Mariano Akerman’s “Inner Constellations.” Painted in 2002, Polaris was first exhibited at the Alliance Française de Manille in 2005.[1] Then, it was generally understood as a landscape, an abstract painting, or both at the same time.

Mariano Akerman (Akermariano), Polaris (initial state), 2002-5. Watercolor, 29 x 21.5 cm.

As it had happened with some other paintings by Akermariano, Polaris was reformulated. Having been re-elaborated not long ago, this image is no longer a watercolor, but a watercolor with collage. Initially it may have been abstract, but today it is definitely a figurative composition.

Mariano Akerman, Polaris (revised state), 2007. Watercolor and collage, 29 x 21.5 cm. Dr. Carlos Magsanoc Collection, Makati Medical Center, Metro-Manila, Philippines.

In its revised state, Polaris includes twelve new elements. Among these new elements, we find four pears that can be easily identified as such. Other elements look more abstract, yet each of them possesses a symbolism of its own.

In Polaris, neither the presence of such elements nor their location in the picture are arbitrary. The new elements interact as a whole, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that their interaction refers to actions taking place simultaneously. In other words, things happening in different moments here coexist in a single frame.

Today we are acquainted with the western convention holding that things happening in different moments must be depicted in separate frames. This is the case, for instance, of each biblical episode depicted in the brass panels of Hildesheim, Cathedral doors (c. 1015).[2]

Biblical episodes, bronze doors, St. Michael's Cathedral, Hildesheim, c. 1015

During the Middle Ages, however, things were not always so conventional. Let’s consider, for example, a marble panel from the pulpit of the Pisa Baptistery by Nicola Pisano (completed in 1260).[3]

N. Pisano, Annunciation, Birth of Jesus and Adoration of the Shepherds, 1260

Here, in a single rectangular panel, we find depicted “The Annunciation,” “The Birth of Jesus,” and “The Adoration of the Shepherds.” These episodes coexist in a single format, suggesting that everything represented in the panel occurs at the same time. But, of course, we do know that this is certainly not the case, for how could the shepherds be adoring Jesus at the very same moment The Annunciation to Mary is taking place and the Child isn’t born yet?[4] In Polaris, things happening in different moments coexist in a single format too. Yet, unlike each motif in Pisano’s imagery, another one by Akermariano may be eventually symbolic of anumber of things. In Polaris, for example, there are four pears; curiously enough, three of them represent one person, whereas an additional one represents another person (see below). Human beings are sometimes like pears: sweet and fragile, that is, succulent yet vulnerable.

Let’s now identify Akermariano’s motifs and their possible meaning in Polaris 2007:

The fluid background of the picture suggests that everything takes place in Manila, an always hot and humid city, inexorably covered by diverse sticky substances (Polaris, initial state). Someone (1), with a personal history (2), is on his way to a medical center. This person, a patient (3), has washed himself up thoroughly (4) and waits to be seen by a professional (5). The doctor (6) receives him (3). Having examined the patient (3) and considering everything he learnt (7), the doctor (6) has an idea that will help him in healing the patient (8). The doctor thus recurs to the appropriate healing instrument (9) and uses it where needed (10). Not long after the patient recovers (11) and feels as light as a bird (12).

Polaris is thus a painting with identifiable motifs and considerable symbolism. Simultaneously, it shows events taking place in different moments. Indeed, all of them coexist in a single visual composition which is also an Inner Constellation in its own right.

Mariano Akerman, Radiography of Polaris (initial state), digital image, 22 June 2007.

Mariano Akerman, Radiography of Polaris (revised state), digital image, 22 June 2007.

References [1] Manila, Alliance Française, Les contellations intérieures / The Inner Constellations : Paintings, Drawings and Collages by Mariano Akerman, November 2005, # 9. [2] Paul Johnson, Art: A New History, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003, p. 147. [3] E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art (1950), London: Phaidon, 1989, fig. 135. [4] A painting by Fra Angelico, The Annunciation (1430), surprisingly includes in the same panel “Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden” (i.e., from the garden contiguous to Mary’s house, where Gabriel is meeting the Virgin). The painting of Fra Angelico, however, is not a disparate that mixes up distinctbiblical moments, but a theological contrast between the original sin and Mary’s Immaculate Conception (Claude Frontisi, Histore visuelle de l’art, Paris : Larousse, 2002, p. 177).

“Polaris,” pictures, comments and design by Mariano Akerman. © 2007 Akermariano. All rights reserved.

Comment. Collage work is most wonderful! I have done a few in my life time and love to look at them and see what has been reflected outward from my subconscious. Any artwork speaks to our imagination but collage work offers even more for our own personal translation. Excellent work mon ami. B.S.

Re: Picasso cultivated the art of collage with passion. I am particularly in love with the surreal ones by Max Ernst. My reason to have incorporated collage as a favorite working method: it is a flexible technique, based on inclusion, and providing us with new possibilities. New relations in terms of design and new associations too. I love watercolor textures and precise lines as well. Collage allows a well-balanced union of them both. Collage is a challenging, revealing technique through which I attempt to create little eternities. Such eternities reflect a little bit of my conscious, subconscious and unconscious all at once. Each part of a collage and its interplay in the whole composition reflects my Self. I indeed share your views.