Rizal, Mabini, and Bonifacio reimagined as superheroes in steampunk art

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave - Steampunk Sculpture National Heroes Philippines
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By: Rachelle Wu

Real-life Filipino superheroes take center stage at this year’s exhibition entitled “Di Pasisiil (The Unconquerable)” that took place recently at León Gallery International. The heart of the exhibit was to explore the spirit of the Filipino that is always unbowed, no matter what odds are stacked against them.

Two talented artists are at the core of this “passion project” of presenting our national heroes in a new and contemporary light, namely Ram Mallari and Megs Empinado. Each adept in their own forms of art, Mallari and Empinado are out-of-the-box thinkers who certainly know how to combined computer age technology with retro-futuristic aesthetics to create stunning works of art.

SEA Wave - Sculpture Jose Rizal Andres Bonifacio

Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal by Ram Mallari and Megs Empinado, Photos from ABS-CBN News

Mallari is best known as a steampunk sculptor, turning spare parts into world-class masterpieces by combining them and applying the traditional technique for metal sculpting. As he likes to put it, his steampunk sculptures reimagine the world through a lens that “pretends that steam-power stuck around.”

Empinado, on the other hand, is a talented 3D artist who has worked at major VFX studios and sculpted for Big Collectible Companies licensed under Marvel, DC, Hasbro, and the like.

The pair first met when they joined a 3D-printing group that was asked to make face shields for frontliners during the early days of the pandemic, offering to give them for free to different hospitals. Since then, the pair hit it off and the result is this exhibit.

The collaboration between the two artists presents our national heroes as beloved pop cultural icons of the modern age – Jose Rizal as Rocketman, Apolinario Mabini as Charles Xavier of X-Men, Macario Sakay as Mad Max and Antonio Luna as an android. Other heroes in the exhibit include Gabriela Silang, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Gregorio del Pilar, Sultan Kudarat, and the country’s very first “unconquerable” hero, Lapulapu.

SEA Wave - F4 Thailand

Antonio Luna by Ram Mallari and Megs Empinado , Photo from ABS-CBN News

Aside from the 10 Filipino heroes mentioned, each artist has also produced solo works embodying favorite Filipino cultural icons and moments – the Philippine tarsier and Jollibee for Mallari, and Tandang Sora and a vignette of the Battle of Mactan for Empinado.

Through their works, the sculptors’ new approach has breathed new life into our heroes. What do you think about their fascinating sculptures? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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