Don’t be fooled by the bright colors and scrumptious images—Celline Mercado reiterates that her works are, first and foremost, about a tumultuous relationship with food.
In “Somehow, I Can’t Stop Eating,” visual artist and illustrator Celline Mercado presents images that, though autobiographical and deeply personal, are uncannily familiar.
For instance, “Cloud Gazer” depicts nostalgic scenes from one’s youth—what with uniforms, after-school fish balls and Coca-Cola, and colors that recall blissful and carefree times.
But there are harrowing images as well. “Midnight Affliction” shows an individual in anguish, surrounded by food items that often pass for snacks and comfort food.
A second look makes us realize that the images hounding the person—Spam, Pancit Canton, and the like—are perfect for binge-eating, all-nighters, or both. (Admittedly, the night before I went to Celline’s exhibit, I downed four packs of noodles at 3AM.) And who isn’t familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of having eaten too much, or consuming mindlessly while trudging through difficult times?
“Food is something that I have always loved; it gives me a lot of joy,” says the artist. “But at the same time, you need to eat to stay alive—and for someone like me who has depression, that would make me think: ‘Oh, every day, I have to be alive? I have to eat again?’”
Mercado is candid about the dark turn that her works take, but she also posits that there are traces of optimism in these illustrations. “It’s this push and pull between despair and hope that I wish to explore. Yes, I know that life is painful, but there is so much joy in eating. But again—eating will remind me that I have to be alive.”
Perhaps “Birthday Girl” represents this conundrum succinctly. In a podcast episode for Galleria Duemila, Mercado reveals her reservations with birthdays, which she connects with her experiences with depression. “I love cake. I like eating cake. But I don’t like my birthday,” she quips.
The medium, colors, and styles chosen by Mercado for her works underscore this duality that she explores with food. Most apparent is the use of lightbox prints, which allude to fast-food menus or convenience store lighting—sources of comfort food that aren’t always the most nourishing, but tasty regardless. They are our loyal companions on late nights out, whether for fun or out of despair.
In the same podcast, Mercado shares that the color choices are directed by the mood of the memories being recalled. Going back to “Cloud Gazer,” her joyful after-school memories are represented by brighter yellows and blues. The subdued colors of “Onion Jam” emphasize the bittersweet despair of the individual making the jam.
And even the usage of boxes, both in the insets and some of the works themselves, imply that feeling of being sealed shut within four corners—a collective feeling we all know too well amid the lockdown.
Viewed through the lens of the ongoing pandemic, “Somehow, I Can’t Stop Eating” becomes a snapshot of our patterns of consumption, not only to live, but to cope, and ultimately survive, whether one may like it or not.
“Somehow, I Can’t Stop Eating” is in partnership with Lyger Coffee, a premium crystallized coffee brand that sets a new standard by providing bolder flavors and a unique experience to add value to your daily lifestyle.
The exhibit is open until August 5 at Galleria Duemila, located at 210 Loring St. 1300 Pasay City, Metro Manila. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00AM to 4:00PM. Reach out to them at (632) 8831-9990, (632) 927 629 4612 or at email@example.com. You may also visit them on Facebook and Instagram at @galleriaduemila.