Is Jumalon

“I am not drawing nature.”

This is how Filipina Contemporary artist Is Jumalon describes creating her mostly large scale drawings in charcoal and soft pastel. Based on photos of nature walks, she likens drawing them to gardening and calls her pieces houseplants. She nevertheless says, “I don’t paint nature as nature.”

With the occasional flashes of color across their surfaces, her large drawings are like black and white windows rich with patterns and nuances. Jumalon calls their installation with gallery and studio, the creation of a habitat. The word reveals itself to be a multi-layered assessment of her drawings. It instinctively corresponds to the viewer’s body, its relationship to these looming hand-made patterns of marks based on the land and its flora. In an exhibition space, their stillness and visuality confront and surround the viewer.

In the studio, they are wild, coming into being from determined impulsive markings and accidents. Waiting is just as essential as actively drawing. They have their own life. They are “houseplants” she has lived with, talked to, caressed, pressed, forced into subservience, and finally accepted as something out of her complete control..

“I enjoy the process of the can revisit and erase everything, or start from what's already there. I find these erasures interesting, even the mistakes that don't end up as mistakes.” There is also the conscious decision to destroy or to disrupt.

Walking is just as part of this process as negotiating with the visual nuances in nature and inviting the unexpected surprises on the drawing’s surface. Creating a “habitat” begins with these trips or “exiles” into natural surroundings. Jumalon describes it as an encounter with light and texture, where natural surroundings are understood and perceived by her as shifting, moving, and fleeting. From camera to drawing, she contends with the natural world as an active and restless force.

This changing natural world is transformed to a charged surface on paper. Her pictures are almost never of vistas, never of flat areas. Armed with a micro-vision, she maps her own impulses against the nuances of natural surfaces and spaces - barks, leaves, foliage, rocks, and the like. Clean emptiness is almost a curse, a displeasure. Chaos is the goal as maps or layers of varying textures, forms, lines, and details vibrate against one another.

Is Jumalon is a Filipina contemporary artist who is fast becoming known for her arresting drawings. Her latest solo exhibitions, featuring her distinct work, were “Visitant” in 2020 and “The Self-Same Power That Brought Me Here Brought You” in 2021, both at Blanc. The pictures here feature those two shows.

Photos: Blanc Gallery