A passion for art
Cheryl Chan-Nolasco (The Philippine Star) - November 3, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The heart of an artist is driven by the passion to create. As a child, Jonathan Dangue fashioned houses made from discarded cassette tapes, corrugated cardboard, and match boxes. When he won the grand prize for sculpture in Metrobank’s Art and Design Excellence (MADE) contest in 2011, he used toothpicks. For his winning entry in architecture at the recent 2012 MADE contest, he envisioned a bamboo house built on stilts.

 Born from Angel, an accountant and Aurora, a math teacher, Jonathan was the only child who dabbled in art instead of numbers.

He doodled on his mother’s textbooks, experimented with different media and created playhouses “using cassette tapes as walls, corrugated cardboard for roofing and molding clay for furniture.” In high school, Jonathan constantly joined poster-making contests but never won. He offers that perhaps the panel of judges from his school did not understand his vision.

“I leaned towards abstraction, and unlike the winning posters, my work was often veiled and shrouded in mystery, they needed artist’s interpretations.” As a senior, he applied as an architecture student at UP and UST but failed to qualify.

He shrugs, “ I was asked to do a perspective of a house and I did not even know what that meant.” Despite his limited exposure and knowledge, Jonathan had the hunger to translate ideas into art. He had his first formal training as a student of architecture at the Mapua Institute of Technology. “ Being an architecture student deepened my knowledge of composition, space and formation of concepts. The discipline helped a lot in my growth as an artist.”

Financial difficulties forced him to discontinue his studies for almost three years, and to make ends meet, Jonathan worked as a portrait painter in a mall. “ I also worked at a fast food chain for a while, but was fortunately granted a scholarship by the Mapua Alumni Association of San Diego, CA. so I was able to finish my course.“

Frustrated after he failed to place in the top ten of the 2011 Architecture License exam, Jonathan poured his angst on a sculpture using an unlikely medium. Toothpicks. “I had boxes of toothpicks which we used for space frame projects. I do not know what possessed me, I just started stabbing at the piece to vent out my frustration.” Talent cannot be contained; Jonathan’s innate creativity molded an angry curvilinear form that gradually smoothened out into graceful, gentle curve as his anger dissipated. Described by the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence awards body as a “ uniquely Asian take on the modernist sculpture,” Jonathan called it, “Walang Pinanghahawakang Anuman sa Palad” depicting an empty human hand. “We were born without anything in our hands, and in death, we cannot hold on to our earthly possessions either. We also leave with an empty hand.” The bold piece won grand prize for sculpture at the 2011 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) and validated Jonathan as a promising artist. “ I was already entertaining thoughts of working abroad for better opportunities, winning the MADE award for sculpture was such a blessing because it introduced me to new contacts and mentors.” Accolades soon followed. Two months after winning the prestigious award, Jonathan bagged the grand prize in the Professional Visionary Category of BluPrint Magazine’s Annual Visionary Award Competition (AVID). The structure, inspired by the anahaw leaf and bamboo skewer sticks was a design for a National Pavilion in a possible future World Fair. Sticks, a recurring theme in Jonathan’s work serves as a reminder for his past failures and serves as his impetus to strive harder.

For the 2012 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence for Architecture, Jonathan submitted and won the grand prize for his ingenious composition of spaces connected by a continuous ramp. “ I stayed with Lola Estelita and was witness to her everyday activities, going up and down the stairs really put a strain on her.” He pauses, “ when I saw the sloping site, I thought of how she would’ve had to struggle to get around, so I thought of using a continuous ramp which also serves to” harvest” rainwater to a cistern which can be used to water plants and flush toilets.” A contemporary take on the bahay kubo, it also pays homage to his ancestral home in Malvar, Batangas. “There was a particular room in the house that had a spaced bamboo ceiling. Wind was allowed to circulate and it was always the coolest part of the house.” Drawing inspiration from that memory, Jonathan designed louvered bamboo flooring that allowed cross section ventilation on all sections of the rooms. Adapting green architecture, He incorporated solar panels to harness the sun’s energy to generate electricity, and utilized sustainable, eco friendly materials like bamboo and capiz.

As Architect Ildefonso P. Santos, Jr. remarked, the judges cheered in unison upon the discovery of the one that best exemplified Filipino ingenuity.

Jonathan strives to evolve as an artist and an architect. After he graduated, he immersed himself in the construction industry applying theories to practice and recently got actively involved with the Heritage Conservation Society to acquaint himself with heritage preservation and possible reuse of reclaimed materials. He has ventured into brass sculpture and is working on “ brass archi sculptures.” More than just his passion to create, it is his heart to learn and achieve excellence that truly inspires.

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