Mangha-Likha: Defying ART Conventions: Awe and Wonder in Unconventional Artmaking
In the years leading up to the pandemic, many Filipino artists emerged from their creative cocoon with artworks using unconventional materials. From moments of introspection and experimentation, these artists were able to create inspiring pieces that highlight Filipino artistry, capability, and ingenuity.
This was the collective story that emerged in the recently concluded group exhibit called “Mangha-Likha: Defying Art Conventions.” Gari Apolonio, Museum Curator of Gateway Gallery, conceptualized the idea initially as a nation-wide art competition. When it did not materialize, he pursued the idea this time as a group exhibition. To make it happen, he applied for an exhibition grant with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under his organization, the J. Amado Araneta Foundation. Apolonio tapped his colleague in the arts and culture, the author, to curate the exhibit, assisting in the selection and documentation of the artmaking process. The exhibit provided a platform for a group of Filipino artists, especially those who work outside the boundaries of the gallery system. Mangha-Likha celebrates the postmodern attitude towards the unconventional or going beyond the norm.
Throughout history, when guilds, galleries, and guidelines were established to serve as vanguards of the craft, it also inadvertently held back other mediums and creative souls that did not traditionally fit in. There are many Filipino visual artists who use unconventional mediums—either organic or synthetic, recycled materials—in their art-making. Normally called outsider or marginal artists, their reasons for using unconventional materials are varied: lack of resources, abundance of a particular art material in the area, personal inclinations towards particular materials, innate skills with a particular material, and self-awareness of environmental problems.
But the sheer talent and grit of this kind of artmaking have caught the attention of the public. For this reason, the Mangha-Likha Exhibit went back to the core of what art is and could be. The creative aspirations of mangha (awe) and likha (create) were incorporated into these artworks in the same way the earliest artists created from the wonders around them.
In this exhibit, 8 artists from Antipolo, Cainta, Quezon City, Pasig, Plaridel, Valenzuela, and Baguio were each given their own solo exhibits under Mangha-Likha at the Small Room, Gateway Gallery. Participating artists included Mai Pimentel de Dios, Tess Ureta Aligaen, Sasha Garcia, Gilbert Calderon Angeles, Marvel Obemio, Noel Abad Quidlat, Percy Denolo, and Jordan Bulanit Mang-osan. They transformed discarded palochina, pull tabs and old toys, mud, and single-use plastic silver laminates to thread with upcycled fabric, masking tape, and sunlight on wood into a multitude of artworks.
In putting together the Mangha-Likha Exhibit, organizers were able to find a common thread out of a diverse group of artists in terms of style, experience, and training. As individual artists, they already shine in their own right. But together, their collective talent blended together well on canvases that highlight outsider art. It was an opportunity to tell the stories behind these pieces and the skill it takes to transform mostly sustainably-sourced materials—or junk, in most cases—into something so beautiful and inspiring.
As Mangha-Likha combined the marginal and the marginalized in the present environment, the exhibit sought to relay a strong message on sustainability, inclusivity, equality, solidarity, ecological balance, and recycling, while promoting the values of courage, resilience, determination, resourcefulness, and originality. Mangha-Likha assembled a collection of handsewn and fabric art, tapestries, mud paintings, solar drawings, eco-paintings, artworks on discarded palochina, pull tab paintings, and papercut artworks.
KAALAMAN, KAGAMITAN, KAGALINGAN
The artists diligently collected waste materials, mud, thread, pull tabs and old toys, upcycled fabric, discarded wood, and more to transform into exhibition-level works. Mangha-Likha became their venue to convey and promote environmental sustainability and protection with the artistic processes of upcycling, recycling, assemblage, etc. The added steps of processing these materials are needed in order to shape them into the artist’s vision. The choice of these unconventional materials was borne out of experiments, explorations, and desire for something different, surprising, and out of the ordinary.
Each artist has developed their own design and art process using organic and non-organic materials as medium, representing the flexibility, resourcefulness, and originality of Filipinos in art making. The fabrication of tapestries from recycled materials. The intricate details cut from masking tapes. The control and precision of heat etching designs on wood. The persistent artistic vision come to life through mud and waste materials. These go beyond paints, brushes, and easels and require a specific skill set and creativity.
The works of the Mangha-Likha artists also involve some sort of co-creation with the community, which has directly influenced, assisted, and supported them in certain stages of artmaking. This is especially true for artists that utilize junk and scrap—their communities were more than happy to help them in their artistic quests.
A Healing Canvas by Mai Pimentel de Dios
Paintings on discarded palochina
The art of Mai Pimentel de Dios is a journey of healing and survival. A resident of Silang, Cavite, Mai took her first steps as a visual artist during the pandemic as a way to cope with the loss of her child. She felt the need to do something new and found them through pieces of discarded palochina and latex paints from her husband’s small furniture business. She asked her husband to turn the discards into boards that she could paint on.
From that exploration, her signature surrealist paintings on recycled wood were born. While she did not have any formal education in the arts, she was accepted in an online mentoring program with Art Show Philippines, leading to her growth as an artist. The initial pieces she produced were abstract art but she later shifted to creating striking portraits that could capture her emotions more. Set in a minimalist colored background, the faces form distortions as a way to exaggerate their emotions.
Mai has sold more than a hundred works locally and abroad. She has participated in various exhibits, including the Luntian Yaman ng Kalikasan group exhibit at the GK Virtual Art Gallery, “Philippine Flora: An Online Botanical Art Exhibition” by the Philippine Botanical Art Society, “Intramuros: Artists’ Perspective in Plein Air” at the Museo ni Jose Rizal in Fort Santiago, “Recurrence 3” at Nuzen Art Gallery, Art Show Philippines and more. Adding another layer to Mai’s artistry is soldiering on to work on her pieces even as she battled cancer. Her supportive community of artists also gathered together for an art show at the ARTablado in Robinsons Antipolo dedicated to her.
For the Mangha-Likha Exhibit, Mai produced a four-painting series entitled “Phases of Distortion.” She highlights the piece called Phases of Distortion II, which takes inspiration from humans as works in progress. Her art process takes her back to the very first time she discovered how art could heal—preparing the wooden canvas that holds her creative vision. Mai works hand in hand with her husband who preps all the boards from the scrap palochina using a plainer, jigsaw, grinder, and wood glue. Once the board is ready, she applies latex paints using only five colors to mix and create other shades, completing her painting in a day depending on the size of the recycled wood canvas.
“I’m inspired by human emotions. I want my audience to also experience it through my art. Women has also been my subject, because I’m inspired by the vulnerability and strength of a woman.” Aside from being environmentally sustainable, the use of recycled wood is symbolic in her craft because it holds hard-earned life lessons from her personal and artistic journey. “We all experience being broken at some point in our lives, but it is through that, that we can be able to create something beautiful out of it. Just like this discarded wood, we can still create something instead of considering them as trash.”
As Mai continues to explore where her creativity could take her, and in the process provide inspiration and healing for herself and others, she encourages us to challenge what we see and embrace the unexpected. Her body of work stands as testament to her own strength as a woman. She moves forward with her art, deeply vulnerable yet still strong and defiant.
A Handsewn Garden by Tess Ureta Aligaen
Blooms and foliage abound in the artworks of prolific artist Tess Ureta Aligaen, whose garden in Antipolo has been a source of inspiration. Her recent body of work, featured in her third solo exhibit and aptly titled “Halaman” (2022), combined her mastery in watercolors, tapestries, and sculpture in ceramics and metal. The pieces are lush with a bit of whimsy from touches of origami, even in the way she names them (I Labyu, Hanapin Mo Diyan, etc.).
Trained in the fine arts, with a major in advertising at the Philippine Women’s University, her professional art journey has taken her from background artist for an animation studio to graphic artist for the Yellow Pages telephone directory. As she began her own family, she explored watercolor, hand sewing, and needlework. “I dabbled back and forth between working with watercolor, cloth and thread. I enjoyed doing needlework as a way to relax when I had children.”
For a decade, she was part of the Antipolo Thursday Group, with whom she has found a creative community and has participated in group exhibitions. Since 2014, she is co-owner of the Tet & Maggie Atelier, a furniture and home décor shop in Antipolo which further nurtures her appreciation for art and all things beautiful. Her group participation for galleries such as Arte Pintura, ArtLounge Manila, and Altro Mondo Creative Space continues her flair for floral masterpieces.
For the exhibit, Tess highlighted four of her needlework art, measuring 30 x 24 inches each. “All four of them have colorful images of cacti. I had a phase around 2016 when I was very fond of cacti and began creating shapes that resembled them through cloth.” The pieces were made from different kinds of fabric, varying in patterns and colors, and colorful embroidery thread. “I chose this medium because there is a lot of potential in experimenting with different textiles. I enjoy coming up with different designs and concepts using fabric.”
Tess begins her art projects with the selection of fabrics wherein she considers its design, color, and texture. Then she lays the pieces side by side to see what picture she can imagine using the existing patterns. With the concept in place, she cuts the shapes and pins them to the background until she is satisfied with the outcome. Armed only with needle, thread, and infinite patience, each component is painstakingly handsewn. “Sometimes, I come across new cloth with a pattern I can use and keep adding it to the tapestry until I feel it is complete.”
Perhaps her longest project would be a 9 x 8 feet tapestry that took her around 30 years to complete, as life had taken over until she was finally able to get the work done. “Making hand-sewn artwork definitely takes time—it is very different from making fast and dynamic strokes with a brush. I find that taking time in making these pieces, and being more conscious about what I sew together, makes them all fulfilling.”
While Tess traces her artistic roots to a fine arts background, her combination of materials (old and new, scrap and whole fabrics) and handsewn technique deviates from it. In the space given here for her needlework art, the pieces grow as a mangha-likha, as if they were fresh, new leaves unfurling one dewy morning for the world to enjoy.
A Stitch of Life by Sasha Garcia
Thread art works on repurposed fabric
Visual artist Sasha Garcia has been stitching together tactile artworks for the past four years, communicating her creative vision and expression through craft work. Starting out as a graphic designer in 2001, she has since expanded her expertise to art directing, layout, and book design while pursuing craft hobbies like sewing, crocheting, and beading. From these interests evolved her thread art works that advocate for wellness, peace, education, and care for the environment.
Sasha completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of the Philippines, majoring in Visual Communications. Her background and interests converge in her handmade art, which go beyond the traditional art medium. “Art is a way to communicate. I make art because sometimes there are no words equivalent to how I feel. What is seen in my finished artwork is the visual word/s.” Her choice of medium may diverge from the usual but she utilizes visual communication to advocate for things that matter from a personal and creative point of view.
Since embarking on her thread artworks journey, she has participated in online group exhibitions: “Pasinaya sa Tagsibol” with Artist Ventures and Advocacy Network (2022), “Paper Issue” by The Blanco Art Gallery (2020), and “#YouMatter: Gallery In Your Hands” as seen in the Gateway Gallery Pocket Museum app (2020). Her on-site group shows include “Mismo sa Ating Puso” at the Gateway Gallery (2020), artisan markets by Artiste Space with Artist Ventures and Advocacy Network (2022), “Mental Tapestries” with Boxless Society (2019), “Isang Bangka, Isang Diwa” with high school schoolmates (2019), “UpDate” with college classmates from U.P. (2018), and “Poink!” with members of the Ilustrador ng Kabataan (2000).
At the core of Sasha’s pieces are repurposed fabric and thread, materials which are easy to source since she works with what she already has on hand. “Threads I have been using are inherited from my mother who was into cross-stitching in the 90s, or given to me by friends, or mine which I have accumulated. For fabrics, I have used scarves or blankets I got from thrift shops. I have also stitched on used coffee filters and photographs.” She takes inspiration from the material itself, moved by the different textures of fabric and fiber.
For the exhibit, Sasha has chosen a diverse set of works that stem from everyday things and personal events. “The process is as free-flowing as possible. I sew what I feel at the moment. I begin sewing in the middle and stitch around and around. It ends when it feels finished.” In her art-making, Sasha strives to be spontaneous with the stitching, to keep the work from looking too “stiff.” While she is more comfortable working with black, white, and neutral threads, it takes longer for her to work on colorful pieces. To address this challenge, her newer works involve colored fabrics.
A resident of Pasig City, Sasha carves out time to make art amidst a busy household shared with family members. “Making my artworks allows me to have life balance because it is time with myself.” The thread works emanate from a sense of self and then expands to a consciousness and care for the environment as Sasha ventures into repurposing materials as much as possible and making something beautiful out of them. In the process, she has these multiple components neatly stitched together into a body of work worthy to be known as a mangha-likha.
A Resilient Nature by Gilbert Calderon Angeles
Eco-paintings with single-use plastic laminates
Post-consumer waste artist Gilbert Calderon Angeles has developed his own creative ecosystem out of a passion for creativity and sustainability. His eco-paintings, made from shredded single-use plastic laminates, leftover acrylic, and other materials, have been a constant fixture in art events during Earth Day celebrations.
His artistic skills, environmental consciousness, and knowledge on post-consumer waste processing work together to form his creative ecosystem. The vibrant, multi-layered eco-paintings emerge as the artist’s commitment to creating meaningful pieces from repurposed materials. “Through my art, I aim to bring awareness to the urgent need for change in how we approach waste management and our consumption habits. By showcasing the potential beauty and value that can be derived from materials otherwise destined for landfill, I hope to encourage a shift in mindset towards more sustainable practices.”
A graduate of Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, Gilbert prefers to incorporate post-consumer waste shredded single-use silver laminated plastics in his pieces. As such the material becomes an active component in the artwork and its message. When Gilbert began to focus more on this type of art making about four years ago, he was able to refine his techniques, explore new ideas, and deepen his understanding of the subject matter. His most recent exhibit, “New Earth, New Life,” was held at the Conrad Manila (2021) featuring his “Of Art and Wine” series.
Gilbert collects the materials from recycling centers, community partners involved in waste management, donations, upcycling, and personal collecting. To efficiently and effectively shred and process it, he utilizes shredding machines obtained from a construction company. “I am able to transform larger waste materials into smaller, more manageable pieces, facilitating their integration into my artistic compositions.”
To implement his creative concept, meticulous care is needed in handling the unconventional art materials. The major steps include material selection (e.g. strong binding agents), surface preparation (to ensure a suitable foundation for the piece), strategic layering and collage (to create depth and visual interest), and texturizing and embellishing (which creates raised surfaces, interesting textures, or engaging effects). Given the nature of waste materials, Gilbert also experiments and explores chemical reactions, adding an element of intrigue and experimentation to his process. The final steps entail refinement and balance, finishing touches, and drying phase to ensure longevity and stability of each piece.
For the Mangha-Likha Exhibit, Gilbert presented four artworks with pollution-related themes to raise awareness and emphasize environmental protection and sustainable solutions. “Nature’s Resilience” holds a special place in the series as it highlights hope and resilience—nature has the remarkable ability to bounce back from the impact of pollution. “Witnessing nature’s strength in the face of adversity inspires me to advocate for sustainable practices and responsible waste management.”
Hailing from Plaridel, Bulacan, Gilbert has worked with local artists, local government units, and private companies in collaborative art projects that aim to raise awareness of the importance of waste reduction, recycling, and proper waste disposal. He also established the Green Artz Movement as an advocacy platform and to promote sustainable living and a greener lifestyle. While he toils on his artworks in solitude, the creative ecosystem connects him with a larger community that ultimately benefits from his mangha-likha.
A Creative Current by Marvel Obemio
Artworks from upcycled pull tabs
Mixed media artist Marvel Obemio has followed a richly creative path that started early on in childhood surrounded by all things art. His father is an artist who does pen and ink sketches and t-shirt printing while his cousins are animators. Today, Marvel is best known for his paintings which feature upcycled pull tabs—usually found in beverage cans and canned goods—as a main element.
As a student, Marvel would draw and sketch almost every day as part of his coursework which helped him hone his skills even more. During this period, he was also very active in street art organized by local art collectives and worked as a henna tattoo artist. A scholar of the Benildean Hope Grant at the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, he completed his degree in animation and was part of the student animators that won Best Animation Film for the New Age Category at the Metro Manila Film Festival in 2015.
After a stint with various animation studios, Marvel decided to pursue painting full-time in 2017, with guidance from his mentor and cousin, painter Roel Obemio of the Saturday Group. It was a natural progression for Marvel who was more passionate towards painting. Even with the shift between mediums, Marvel never really stopped making art and growing as a young artist. He fought for his distinctive style of artmaking in a field that’s more inclined towards the traditional fine arts and mediums.
As he joined various art exhibits and honed his craft, he reflected on how he as an artist could contribute to the country. His use of pull tabs, old toys, and other scrap materials was a conscious response to this quest as it also helps the environment. “Siguro magagawa ko ‘yung parte ko bilang artist sa pag-reresiklo, at masaya akong sabihin nakakabawas ako ng kalat ng lipunan.” (“I think I can do my part as an artist through recycling, which I’m happy to say helps in reducing waste in society.”) He would personally collect these junk materials on the streets.
In the beginning, it was a challenge to finish an art piece as it took about a year before he was able to collect enough pull tabs and scraps for his paintings. But his appearance in national television shows featuring the pull tab paintings garnered enough attention that relatives, friends, and fellow artists would collect their own pull tabs and donate it to him. The pull tabs would come from as far as Cavite, Bulacan, and even Japan. Now, Marvel is able to create an 18 x 24-inch artwork in about a week rather than years.
For the exhibit, Marvel paid homage to the Mona Lisa, a happy piece that he assembled during the pandemic years using the limited materials he had on hand. Two of his other pieces are fish-themed, which is a nod to his own pet fishes at home and his general interest on the subject. He saw the potential for the pull tabs to become fish scales after encountering the items being disposed of at the dormitory. The piscine masterpieces represent how humans and fish are the same in the way both would sometimes need to swim against the current in order to move forward.
In creating his unconventional mangha-likha artworks, Marvel has brought together a larger community that supports his art and the environment. “Kabilang din sa aking inspirasyon ay ang kalikasan. Walang ibang gagawa nito kundi tayo. Ang mahalaga sa atin ay mag-umpisa at gumawa ng bagay o pamamaraan para makakatulong sa ating kalikasan.” (“One of my inspirations is the environment. There’s no one else to do this but us. It is important for us to start and to create things or processes that help the environment.”) This is Marvel’s animated story of transforming junk into works of art.
A Sense of Self by Noel Abad Quidlat
Papercut portraits on masking tape
Paper cut artist Noel Abad Quidlat of Antipolo, Rizal is one of the many Filipino young artists whose artworks have gone viral on social media in recent years. Best known for his portraits of international celebrities using tape and a glass frame, Noel has captured the admiration of a million fans worldwide.
The foundation of these fan art pieces stems from his first sketches way back in high school using pencils and colored pencils. As his skills developed, he began to post his works and their accompanying time-lapse videos on Tiktok, YouTube, and Instagram. The behind-the-scenes videos allowed his audience a glimpse of the skill and persistence it took to finish each drawing.
As a way to level up his artworks, he began to experiment with different styles such as fingerprint painting and half-tone portrait papercuts. After coming across a fellow artist doing papercuts with masking tape, he was inspired to also try the medium himself. Over time, he was able to figure out his own method, beginning with a base sketch of the subject, applying the layers of masking tape onto the glass frame, cutting them according to the details, and cleaning up the artwork to remove any dirt and impurities.
The meticulously carved paper portraits, when set against a backlight, reveal the image in a play of light and shadow. To achieve this effect, Noel first sets three layers of tape on the frame. “This will indicate the base tone or the lightest tone of the face (eye light reflection, the cheek, etc.). After that, I will again put around four or five layers of tape, which depends on the reference. If the subject is dark, then I will put on more tape.” It’s a trial and error process until he achieves the right color when set against the backlight. “If I made it darker, I would try to carve out one to two layers.” When he is satisfied with the outcome, he does a final cleanup and checks how the portrait looks. “The challenge is that you have to cut it right with enough energy to make it neat.”
For the exhibit, Noel presented a few celebrity fan art that garnered him popularity on social media and appearances on national television. The generation of young artists like Noel navigates a much different landscape compared to traditional artists who grew up without social media platforms. There is a more direct engagement with the audience, fellow artists, and subjects alike which influences the making of the artwork and how it is received by the public.
Artmaking on social media is just one aspect that today’s generation of artists can explore. Noel’s first-ever art exhibit at Mangha-Likha gave him the opportunity to be alongside fellow artists whose career paths boomed during the pandemic. His pieces also stand in a gallery space that would usually be occupied by more experienced fine artists. At Mangha-Likha, Noel brought a sense of wonder that accompanies art appreciation regardless of the usual conventions that govern it.
The body of work that Noel has created at this initial stage of his career has already provided inspiration to many others. With more experimentations, deviations, self-discoveries, and even formal training in the near future if he is so inclined, Noel will see himself grow into maturity as an artist. The medium and perspective may change, his artistic philosophies will perhaps become more certain and defined. For now, we appreciate his first steps and listen in as he speaks about how he creates portraits for subjects that interests him more. “It is not all about the artwork you made, it is why you make it.”
A Grounded Reality by Percy Denolo
Mud shadow artworks
Mud shadow artist Percival “Percy” Denolo, Jr. brings together painting and performance art through his live demonstrations with an unusual medium—mud on a glass canvas. He began his explorations on mud art in 2010 and held his first solo mud art exhibit in 2012. But five years later, his popularity as a mud shadow artist grew after joining a national talent competition on television, leaving the audience and judges awestruck the moment the final piece was revealed live.
For the last 30 years, the multi-talented visual artist has worked as a mural artist, comics illustrator, editorial cartoonist, and t-shirt designer. Born in the province of Capiz and growing up in North Cotabato, Percy now resides as an artist from his home studio in Valenzuela City. He has actively participated (and won) in talent shows and art competitions, sometimes appearing in TV guesting.
He completed his Bachelor of Science in Education majoring in Industrial Arts at the Technological University of the Philippines. As a mentor, Percy has facilitated a number of art workshops and tutorials, mostly for free, in schools and at his studio. Aside from his mud art exhibits and regular art shows, he is regularly invited to events to showcase his mud art performances.
In creating his mud art pieces, Percy applies a layer of mud directly on the glass using his hands instead of a paintbrush. The mud is sourced from a thriving termite colony in his own backyard. In Philippine mythology, this mound is known as nuno sa punso, which houses a dwarf-like nature spirit. But in artmaking, it’s a mineral-rich painting medium that takes Percy into a creative trance each time he demonstrates the mud shadow paintings. After collecting the mud, he has to process it by boiling to ensure that it is safe to use and then adds a little bit of scent to the mixture.
During live performances, the mud shadow art involves storytelling as the audience witnesses the unfolding of the subject or theme in real-time. The mud layer is moved around with palm and fingers to carve out the details and evoke the tonal value. At times, music or narration accompanies the performances. To showcase it in its full effect, there is a lighting fixture installed behind the glass to illuminate the contrasts of shadow and light.
As he created more mud art, Percy also experimented on trying the mud on regular canvas which he has processed to resemble the characteristics of glass. Over time, he was able to refine his techniques to ensure that it is durable and long-lasting. The resulting artworks are detailed monochromatic paintings that range from flowers, birds, and fish to dragons and mythical beasts, mother and child, Christianity, historical figures, and popular culture.
“Nakaka-inspire sa akin ‘yung mga realidad na tema/history, at nagagawa ko siya sa pamamagitan ng mud shadow artwork.” (“I’m inspired by realistic and historical themes, and I’m able to make it through the mud shadow artwork.”) Some of these themes are housed on the second floor of the Mad About Mud Art Gallery in Valenzuela while some are included in the Mangha-Likha Exhibit.
The use of a tactile and sustainable medium literally keeps Percy’s art grounded and speaks volumes about its value. “Ang inaapakan natin ay putik o lupa, pero ito ang pinakamagandang nilikha ng Diyos. Dito tayo nagmula. Na kakaiba at nakakamangha ang artwork na likha gamit ang putik.” (We step on mud or soil, yet it is the most beautiful creation of God. We come from the earth. It is a different and amazing artwork created from mud.”)
A Monochromatic Flare by Jordan Bulanit Mang-osan
Solar drawings on indigenous culture
From the mountains of the Cordillera, visual artist Jordan Bulanit Mang-osan thrives in a beautiful landscape and art scene that is suportive and conducive to art making. Belonging to the Igorot indigenous group and born in Benguet from parents who hail from Mountain Province, Jordan’s art is deeply influenced by his environment and roots. Using pyrography, he is able to produce solar drawings featuring scenes and themes from his indigenous culture.
Jordan began his artistic training at the Baguio School of Business Technology (BSBT) where he enrolled in the one-month charcoal medium course facilitated by artist Bayard Aquitania in 1987. That same year, he was introduced to the Baguio Arts Guild, a local group of visual artists who helped budding artists like Jordan to develop artmaking skills. From there, he was able to participate in various exhibitions and art festivals with the group.
For one year, he also apprenticed under the late Santiago Bose, founding president of the Baguio Arts Guild, from whom he learned art techniques in charcoal, pen and ink, and acrylic. Mr. Bose also introduced him to a pyrographic technique that the latter called “fired drawing.” Harnessing the power of the sun as the heat source (rather than the usual metal pen that engraves burn marks on the surface), the artist engraves the design onto the wood.
He decided to focus on this medium as it was more practical and less expensive compared to the other materials. Jordan would later refer to his artworks as solar drawings or solarized art. “Sa solar drawing kahit hindi detalyado ay masasabing kakaiba dahil ang gamit ay magnifying glass and the rays of the sun.” (“In solar drawings, even if it’s not detailed you can say that it’s unique because it uses the magnifying glass and the rays of the sun.”) The designs can be etched on various surfaces such as wooden board, plywood, bamboo pulp, and others.
His process begins with sketching the desired subject onto the surface. Then, he sets up his outdoor work area directly under sunlight. Wearing a hat and sunglasses for protection, he wields a custom magnifying glass mounted on a bamboo holder. He directs the heat harnessed by the glass onto his work surface so that it can etch the dots, lines, shapes and details needed. The design can be a familiar landscape or a detailed portrait. With its dependence on the weather, the length of time it takes to finish one artwork is uncertain. But based on his experience, Jordan estimates that a 3 x 4-inch piece can be finished in about an hour as long as the sun is up and about. Bigger pieces would take several months.
For the Mangha-Likha exhibit, Jordan again showcased the Cordilleras. “Karamihan po sa aking mga likha ay tungol sa motifs and images, culture and tradition, rituals and environment of the Cordillera na gusto kong i-encourage ang mga individuals especially my fellow Igorot not to be ashamed of our tribal culture and instead be proud of our ethnic beginnings.” (Majority of my creations pertain to motifs and images, culture and tradition, rituals and environment of the Cordillera that I want to encourage individuals especially my fellow Igorot not to be ashamed of our tribal culture and instead be proud of our ethnic beginnings.”)
Currently, Jordan is a member of the Tam-Awan Village Artists, which also aims to help budding artists develop their skills. He has gone full circle as now he is one of the mentors who share not only technical expertise with the younger artists but also uplift and encourage them in the same way that his mentors did when he was just starting out. Together with this mentorship and his continuous creation of solar drawings, Jordan can make future Cordilleran talents shine as bright as, of course, the sun.
ANG SINING NG MANGHA-LIKHA
The development of the exhibit came from combining the collective knowledge (kaalaman), materials (kagamitan), and mastery (kagalingan) of the eight mangha-likha artists. The exhibit was a diverse collection of artistry that when placed side by side becomes a beautiful patchwork of an inclusive community.
As individuals, the artists stand out with their unique ability to turn something unusual to a remarkable art piece. As a group, the whole exhibit tells a bigger story of persistence, focus, and commitment regardless of the challenges that the artist-outsider may face.
Mangha-Likha welcomed both artist and audience in a conversation about “outsider art” and their place in society. For the Filipino artist, nothing is wasted. Scraps and junk become second chances and opportunities for the outsider to form into portraits, landscapes, tapestries, and artistic performances. When the artist turns something ordinary, mundane, and overlooked into an amazing masterpiece, it becomes truly a “mangha-likha.”