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Jonathan Matti’s vision brings Elmer Borlongan’s playful bronze sculptures to life

Renowned interior designer Jonathan Matti is bringing a new dimension to Filipino art with his latest project, "Shoulder Wars," an exhibit featuring the whimsical bronze sculptures of acclaimed artist Elmer Borlongan. This exhibit opened on May 18, 2024, at Vetted, Matti's creative space in Makati, showcasing Borlongan's playful interpretations of childhood memories in bronze.

A vision rooted in cultural appreciation

Jonathan Matti has long been celebrated for his sophisticated and elegant design style, but his passion for Filipino culture, history, and art truly sets him apart. “Elmer Borlongan’s work has always captured the essence of Filipino culture with a unique blend of nostalgia and modernity. This exhibit is a testament to his ability to evoke deep emotions through both painting and sculpture,” Matti said.

Matti's deep appreciation for Filipino art and culture is evident in his choice to feature Borlongan's "Shoulder Wars" sculptures. The playful depiction of two men engaged in a friendly battle while perched on the shoulders of friends in a pool captures a quintessentially Filipino experience. “The subject,” Borlongan explains, “was about taking a break and playing.” This theme resonates deeply with Matti's vision of celebrating Filipino heritage through art.

Bringing art to life: From canvas to bronze

The journey of "Shoulder Wars" from an oil painting to a bronze sculpture began in 2015 when Borlongan first painted the scene, initially titled "Chicken Wars." It was later renamed and displayed at the Alliance Française in an exhibition centered on the theme of water. The painting eventually found its way into the collection of landscape consultant and bonsai proponent Roberto Gopiao, who proposed the idea of translating it into a three-dimensional sculpture in 2018.

Borlongan oversaw the creation of a maquette, a miniature clay model that served as a blueprint for the final seven-foot-tall sculpture. With the help of a foundry in Xiamen, China, the sculpture was cast in bronze, bringing a new texture and dimension to Borlongan's playful scene.

Vetted: A space for creativity and culture

Jonathan Matti's Vetted, located at 126 Mile Long Arcade, Amorsolo St., Makati, is more than just a gallery; it is a creative space dedicated to showcasing the finest in art and design. Matti's vision for Vetted is to promote Filipino artists and foster a vibrant cultural community. The "Shoulder Wars" exhibit perfectly aligns with this vision, offering visitors a glimpse into Borlongan's playful yet poignant interpretation of Filipino childhood memories.

Matti’s expertise in interior design, combined with his deep appreciation for Filipino art, makes Vetted a unique venue that bridges the gap between art and everyday living. His collaboration with British design firm De Gournay in 2017, which led to the creation of Latina Manila, a bespoke wallpaper collection inspired by 19th-century Manila and the Philippines’ flora and fauna, further highlights his dedication to infusing Filipino cultural elements into his designs.

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