From metal scraps to art pieces
SAN PABLO CITY—Mario A. Mallari Jr., 46, did not finish his architecture course, as he married early and worked as a draftsman to be able to raise his six children.
It never occurred to him that he had talent for sculpture. He said he was too scared to try, especially experimenting with dirty metal discards.
But every time he saw such discards, he said, he felt he needed to turn them into something good.
Finally, one day in May last year, he picked up a piece of scrap metal and began to turn it into a work of art. Then he tried another piece. And then some more.
Before he knew it, he said, it had become “wildfire.” He was amazed that he completed 150 sculptures in just a short time. With such an output, he was ready to exhibit.
He mounted a series of exhibits, including an exhibit at the lobby of the Senate of the Philippines.
Then followed exhibits at shopping malls in Mandaluyong and in San Juan City in Metro Manila and, now, in San Pablo City in Laguna.
Mallari said he sold 70 percent of his 150 sculptures to art collectors, including former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Rep. Marc Justin Chipeco of Laguna (2nd District) and Laguna Gov. ER Ejercito.
Mallari said that he derived great joy from “turning something discarded and considered worthless into an artwork that is adored and appreciated.” And he considers the finished artwork his show of “respect for the metal and nature.”
“The thread that runs like red wire through all my works is recycling,” Mallari says on his website, www.marmallari.com, to explain his passion for turning junk into work of art.
Mallari said he had received invitations to exhibit in Austria, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.
A Filipino art enthusiast who lives in Austria had offered to sponsor and exhibit in Vienna, Mallari said.
The enthusiast offered his gallery and his home for accommodation to Mallari, but did not offer to pay for his trip to Austria.
“I had to decline the offer for now because I didn’t have enough resources yet to do exhibits overseas,” Mallari said. “Maybe my time would come,” he added.
He also turned down an offer by an Australian art enthusiast to help him move his shop to Australia. The enthusiast assured him of good sales if he would relocate, he said.
It was a “big temptation,” he said. But he declined, he said, because he wanted to fully develop his craft here instead of in another country. He asked the enthusiast, however, to find him markets in Australia.
Mallari said he preferred to promote his artworks here to help raise public awareness of “hidden treasures” among the rejects that litter the environment.
His sculptures are characters whose names could have been lifted from storybooks, such as Ogre, Baby Ogre, Knucklehead, Dragon Heart and Olifant. Among them are small-scale versions of battle tanks, helicopter gunships, a train inspired by the 1976 movie “Cassandra Crossing,” a motorcycle named Easy Rider inspired by the eponymous movie, and another motorcycle inspired by a 1931 Harley.
There are also representations of mythical creatures, including a mammoth reptile, a leopard and a dragon, with intricate details that show how scrap material was “repurposed,” as Mallari described it. A viewer will be amazed at how Mallari crafted the trunk of his elephant from the hose of a vacuum cleaner.
Mallari said the helicopter gunship required at least 15 kilograms of scrap metal, which he collected and stored in his shop. He completed the piece using additional metal he bought from junk shops.
At the start, Mallari sold his sculptures for P3,000 to P5,000 a piece. But when his works became popular, the gallery agent raised the prices, which now start from P25,000.
Support for campaigns
Mallari’s exhibit “Metal Green, the Art of Metal Recycling,” runs from from April 16 to 22 at SM City San Pablo. In a speech at the opening of the exhibit, Mallari declared his openness to inspire other artists like him to be creative for the sake of the environment.
He also declared his readiness to support environmental campaigns. “It is, for me, a great deal of honor to be part of efforts to protect nature,” he said.
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