Underscores Power of Metal Over Body

PETE JIMENEZ
Underscores Power of Metal Over Body

Power of Metal Over Body Article PhotoSculptor Federico PETE Jimenez, known since 2000 for using found metal objects from junk shops, and transforming them into interesting sculpted metal objects, has gone extra invasive by making metals represent soft body parts.

His new piece, a 48-inch tall metal sculpture, entitled, “Hinga ng Malalim (Take a deep Breath),” which won Second Prize in the sculpture category of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Annual Art Competition last June this year, is a stark representation of lungs and heart with found metal objects.

In this art piece, Jimenez used two motorcycle red and bluish tanks, ripped out of Suzuki and Kawasaki bikes, which he found in a junk shop in northern suburban Norzagaray, Bulacan, to represent what should be a pair of air-filled and spongy lungs.

Jimenez chopped a sturdy sheet of steel-matting (materials brought by Americans in constructing airfields in the Philippines during World War II), a treasure he found in a dark junkshop in suburban Quezon City; he curled it into a roundish tube to create a windpipe to hold the lungs together. Can steel matting approximate a soft and moist windpipe? “Steel matting can also be transformed into a spine,” he lectures. Yes, steel is an appropriate material for spine or bone because they essentially connote strength and power.

For the heart, Jimenez used a one foot-tall orange tank container of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG also LPG kalan), now an antique object that he bought from an LPG delivery boy in Quezon City. Does the sculpture hint about hard-heartedness?

The artist also re-fashioned a forklift, put a hole in it to make it look like a loudspeaker, which should represent the mouth, but he installed near the heart, at the back part of the sculpture.

“I sourced all the materials from my weekly tours of junk shops,” he recounts. His garage in his house in Fern Village, in suburban Quezon City is a trove of industrial waste, kept in the dark, where hard and indomitable carcasses of steel await the light of his touch and imagination.

“When I put all these heavy things together, to make Hinga ng Malalim, I think I succeeded in creating an essence of weightlessness,” says Jimenez.

Making “Hinga ng Malalim” also began with the idea of representing his own physical malady. “I am asthmatic – also on steroids,” he confesses.

The result of the artwork, however, is not a pure representation nor is it a one to one fusion of material and intended art object. It underscores the artist’s intentional exercise of using materials that do not totally enhance the spirit of what he wants to recreate in an art piece. This is quite an unacceptable norm of creativity, in the academe, making him quite unique among his peers, including those who use the same material and metamorphose it into something poetic.

Depicting a pulmonary system (in art) with hard metallic object is like transforming steel to acquire the essence of air, lace, and transparency. Jimenez’ particular artwork is initially seen as a stubborn or a radical play of material, by forcing it to represent (in finished art work) its opposite essence. Almost with intentional violence, Jimenez has radically exaggerated the power of metal in this artwork, as if he has elevated industrial waste or steel in its raw form into an art form by itself.

This creative process – of disjunctive use of art material – has a philosophy of its own. It is not like making found objects metamorphose into something else, as they become art objects desired by the artist. It is not like Michaelangelo (1475-1564), the Italian genius who could warm and crumple a slab of marble into bodies and robes. Nor is it like Jerusalino Araos (1944-2012), a master Filipino sculptor, whose hands seem to sculpt from the inside of wood, his favorite material, and make it sing lullabies between mother and child (in the womb).

Jimenez’ piece is one example of artwork in which the art object represented is totally different from the material used. The clash or tension between the material (found steel or other industrial waste) and the intended art object (like body organs) is in itself a form of art and creativity.

This artwork – although its form is perfect, is less about form and more about material. In this artwork, the industrial waste that comes to life (in the guise of a pair lungs) becomes a powerful and vital essence by itself, of a post-modern era, in the way it invades and overcomes representations of man’s internal organs. Art critics in the United States have described this in the 1980s as “dirty realism”.

“That’s how I look at found objects. When I see them in the junk shop, I instantly know what they should represent. But I retain their old and original form as if they could dictate with their own volition what they should be like in my art. I do little intervention. The true form of the metal is not violated. The industrial waste is respected. That’s my play. In that way I work spontaneously,” he says.

Controversial?

Before “Hinga,” Jimenez has already done more controversial artworks with the use of industrial waste. He destroyed parts of an old Volkswagen car to make a giant butterfly (Paru-Parong Bukid, which was shown at West Gallery in 2012). He broke parts of old wrought iron garden sets to make a giant bud of sampaguita (the national flower, which was exhibited at West Gallery in 2012). He used the roof of a Volkswagen to make a four-legged creature (which he entitled “Raise the Roof,” and displayed at Magnet in 2009). He donated this artwork to the University of the Philippines art collection at the basement of the UP main library.

“I hope viewers also get angry at my artworks,” he says. Some antique lovers and conservators have been heart broken by his artworks.

How did this begin?

“I get a different feeling every time I see steel and other industrial waste in junk shops,” says Jimenez . In 2000, he seriously started doing artworks by welding, reshaping, and making them morph into something else.

Since then, he has had 14 shows, making him one of few Filipino artists who favor using industrial waste as a material. All of these artists, however, have different philosophies in the way they use this modern material. Although they use the same material, they have not yet formed an association or created an art movement.

Jimenez has had a chance to sculpt in wood when he was an art student at the University of the Philippines, where he finished his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1982.

“At the time, I tried sculpting on molave (Philippines’ hard wood). But tt looked like a derivative of Napolen Abueva’s ‘Allegorical Harpoon,’” says Jimenez about the influence of his teacher on him.

His discovery of found objects and other industrial waste as an art material began when he made his own house in Fern Village in 1999. In the process, it paved the way for serious art making, and a discourse about his own identity and the meaning of his era.

“I soar when I do art works – on week-ends,” says Jimenez, who is renowned in the advertising world as President & Chief Operating Officer of Optima Digital Inc., one of the country’s top post production houses. He was with Unitel Productions, a major production house, from 1986 to 1990 before he joined Optima in 1990.

After finishing his college degree in 1982, he worked for cartoonist Larry Alcala, which paved the way for his career in animation – in pre-computer era. This honed his mastery of the traditional hand-drawn animation.

Although recognized as one of the country’s major artists today, Jimenez has received more awards (eight) as animation director of TV commercials from Philippine-based and foreign award giving bodies.

Manila Bulletin/LifeStyle Section
October 21, 2013

by Filipina Lippi
Photo by Pinggot Zulueta

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