By Sara Grace C. Fojas
Images by Pinggot Zulueta
Like a little boy tinkering with his toys, steampunk artist Ram Mallari creates intricate masterpieces of chess boards and chess pieces, a jukebox machine, an old vinyl player, and more using scraps from the junkyard.
“My medium is mixed media wielded sculpture. Seventy percent of my artworks are made of discarded materials that I found at the junkyard,” shares Ram. “I guess it’s my way to look at and utilize found objects. I like to redefine them into a high quality sculpture reflecting a broad range of interests.”
Using these found objects, he would interlock them with each other like a puzzle piece and form a three-dimensional sculpture.
“Steampunk art is a retro-futuristic subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery,” says Ram. “It’s the perfect theme for my art because I use discarded materials which are the most common elements of steampunk like gears, gauges, and other mechanical parts.”
His interest in playing with scrap metals started in 2013, influenced by sculptor Jud Turner. Three years ago, he met local artists Buds Convocar, Buddy Ching, Aner Sebastian, and Omi Reyes who established Steampunk Art Philippines. Now they are on their fourth steampunk exhibit along with 15 other artists.
“Most of my materials come from junkyards. Some are from friends and even from collectors who want me to include them for their commissioned artworks,” he says. “I select the parts, clean them thoroughly to remove rust, grease, and dirt, and then I create the assemblage art like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I will arrange the scraps to form a unique structure I desire.”
It’s the perfect theme for my art because I use discarded materials which are the most common elements of steampunk like gears, gauges, and other mechanical parts.
All of these scraps have been consuming Ram’s life for eight years. His 600-square meter studio in Quezon City is a museum of metal trash that will soon become a timeless metal piece. His mixed assemblage Dynamo is his way of fighting the extinction of Rhinos and Odyssey is his tribute to the whales, the gentle giants of the sea. He even created a cool metal sculpture of Jollibee.
“My favorite item on display at my office is the very first artwork I did when I started—a very small motorcycle sculpture,” Ram says. “My art now is very different from the very first works I did eight years ago. I have made various series collections, bigger sizes, and better themes. Public installation art is becoming a big thing in the country and I think this will be a huge opportunity for me to showcase my body of works.”
Now some of his works are seen in the “Renaissance” exhibit at The Art Gallery by Manila Hotel, together with renowned sculptor Agi Pagkatipunan, which runs until Jan. 30. “These are not just ordinary sculpture because they are more functional, which started when special collectors requested that I make them some,” he says. “Eventually, I started doing more of them because of the demands and now I am considering making more of them in the future.”
His favorite piece in his collection is the Jukebox, which he says reminds him a lot of his childhood. “It is not an original old piece but more of a reproduction of the music machine,” he says. “It reminded me of how, when I was little, I would save my ‘baon’ so I could drop it into the machine and listen to my favorite songs. It’s very nostalgic.”
Eight years into his adventure with metals, Ram has now created 2,872 artworks since he started, 95 of these are now in the hands of proud owners and collectors. This has inspired him to continue working on his passion. “I was hesitant at first, but realizing that most of the artworks I made back then were already sold to some collectors, I decided to fully embrace steampunk and consider myself a Filipino Steampunk artist,” he says. “And the rest is history. Until my body is able to, I will continue making art.”
“Renaissance” at The Art Gallery by The Manila Hotel will run until Jan. 30. | 02 8527 0011 | email firstname.lastname@example.org