Artist uses own blood, hair in paintings

- Punto Central Luzon () - July 12, 2011 - 9:48am

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines –  A homegrown artist from the remote town of Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija is a “blood and hair” painter.

Elito Circa, 41, uses his blood as medium for some of his painting and incorporates his hair in capturing on the canvass images of human persons or nature’s view.

But even if blood is not used in painting his subject, he always signs his name in his work of art with his own blood. Under his signature, he also writes in blood his appellation “Amang Pintor”, which was the bansag (call name) given by the Pantabangan residents then to identify him from the other “Amangs” in their locality.

Circa is currently working as system’s analyst at the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (formerly Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension) and is residing at the Roseville Heights Subdivision here.

Whenever possible, he goes home to Pantabangan to reconnect to the environment and other settings in the town which hosts Pantabangan Dam.His native town, which was relocated when the dam started operating, has been his rich sources of inspiration for his paintings.

He constructed a nipa hut in the second floor of his house which he uses as his studio during his spare time. It is also where most of his paintings are installed.

But in the dining room of his house, his 3 x 5- foot self-portrait painted entirely with the use of his own blood is prominently displayed.

“I probably used about 350 ml of my blood in painting this in 1992,” he disclosed. Explaining how he came to come out with his signature painting, Circa said the College of Arts and Sciences of the Central Luzon State University here, where he was enrolled  then as a common first year student, was in the thick of preparation for its annual exhibits. 

His club, the Artists’ Club, a recognized university student organization, was then encouraged to participate in the exhibit.

 Wanting to come out with the best exhibit, he decided on the eve of the opening of the exhibit to come out with a very unique entry in the exhibit. He thought of using his own blood, instead of water-based or thinner-based paints, medium for his painting.

He asked a doctor in the university infirmary to shed his blood for use in his painting. Refusing, the doctor said he doesn’t kill humans.

Determined, he closeted himself in one of the rooms in another college and started capturing his image as he saw it in a mirror. The other members of the club stayed outside the room to await for the completion of his art of work.

“I pricked all the finger tips of my hands and feet for the blood that I needed,” Circa said.

At 5:00 a.m. the following day, his colleagues found him slumped on the floor exhausted but with his “painting of a lifetime” finished. That afternoon, he and his work of art, titled “Erose”, became the common talk inside the university.  

He was honored with the “Artist of the Year” award by the college for his painting. He has since made a number of paintings using his own blood as medium.

Also, he incorporates some strands of his hairs in his painting which he thought the effect would be more real. 

Circa, who has been featured in four TV shows in Metro Manila stations, and was dubbed as the “Blood and Hair Artist of Nueva Ecija”, felt strongly against the claim of some psychologists that he is doing it because of fetish or excessive devotion in doing it.

He gave his reason for doing it. “It’s because of my own philosophy why I am using my own blood in some of my paintings,” he explained. “Shedding your own blood for what you do is proving that you give a little sacrifice for your work of art that you give to others,” he added.

“Then they will say grabe pa lang magmahal itong pintor na ito (this painter shows great love),” Circa continued. “Ito’y isa kong pag-aalay sa ngalan ng pagmamahal (This is my offering in the name of love),” he added.

He has already sold a number of his paintings for P10,000 to P25,000 a piece. For his paintings done in his own blood, though, he is placing a tag price of P300,000 “para manatili na lang sa akin” (so that it will remain in my possession),

Circa has no formal training in painting. He started drawing, using charcoals from the stove in their kitchen, on the walls of their house in Pantabangan town while he was six years old.

Then his father, a carpenter in a government agency, started bringing home small pieces of plywood and some paints. He then uses strands of his hair tied to a stick in painting his subject.

He joined a nationwide contest while still in the elementary grades to paint using colored pencil the images of popular radio characters “Simatar” and “Tagani” and won first prize.

From the elementary grades to high school, he continued his drawing and painting activities. He estimated finishing at least 600 works of arts, which he gave to some of his teachers, friends and neighbors during that time. He said he still sees in some of the houses in Pantabangan his works of art.

It was only when his “foster parents from Australia”, who were selected by a world-wide organization to help poor but deserving students, gifted him with materials for painting, that he started doing paintings that attracted much attention.

He painted a series of 15 paintings for the “Alamat ni Minggan” which depicted the courtship of the giant “Minggan” to “Mariang Sinukuan” who was supposed to be dwelling in Mount Arayat.

In the legend, “Mariang Sinukuan” promised “Minggan” to reciprocate his love if he could put a dam of stones on the mighty “Sapang Makukulnay” (Pampanga River in Pantabangan town) starting early evening “until the cocks crow” the next morning.

Minggan supposedly failed in his work as “Mariang Sinukuan” made the cocks crowed earlier than usual.

Circa also made a series of paintings about the place of his birth. He depicted “Paglisan sa Dating Bayan” (about the evacuation of the residents of Pantabangan when their town was about to be submerged by Pantabangan Dam), the completion of the dam in 1973 and its subsequent operation.

In his Pantabangan series, he showed the irrigation waters of Pantabangan Dam flowing up to the foot of Mount Arayat to depict the “undying love of Minggan to Mariang Sinukuan”.

During his spare time, Circa is going around teaching children the art of painting “just for the love of it”.

Of course, Circa would also always show his other favorite painting displayed in his house – that of his wife Teresita – which he also painted in his own blood.

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