Phlearn Interviews Michael Vincent Manalo
Michael Vincent Manalo is a visual artist, photographer, and a designer. He was born in 1986 in Manila, Philippines. His works are inspired by the imagined memories of nostalgic and dream-like environments; his work documents their decline into post-apocalyptic and nightmarish creations.
Manalo has exhibited in Australia, Germany, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Philippines, Poland, UK and USA. He won 1st prize in the Digital Art Category at the Art Museum of Chianciano Terme, Italy and Best Photography Illustration from The Redmond Digital Arts Festival in Washington, USA. His works have been published in several magazines such as the Advanced Photoshop in the UK and Fotoblur Magazines.
He has attended several artist-in-residences in Australia, Poland and England. He has also conducted lectures in Poland and Australia and did a photo-manipulation workshop in Singapore.
Michael is also featured on Phlearn as an inspirational photographer.
Life has always been a fascination to me. From those inevitable school fights during the elementary years to those wild days of puberty. From the lonesome people in the parks to the 8-inched mohawked people during concerts. From feeling someone else’s warmth to dealing with the blackness within.
There were a lot of emotions – pain, happiness, love and warmth, glory, success, failures, torture, jealousy, excitement, rage, pride. All these converged and met at a common point in time and space and created who I am, what I want to explore and what I hope to achieve.
Vast images come to my mind each day as a result of the radical emotions that fill me in each heartbeat. I try to recreate it as soon as I could by combining photographs and techniques in illustration to recreate those concepts in mind.
I forge these images and try to relate them to the popular tales of human drama. I try to recreate these stories by illustrating my own interpretations of these emotions or sometimes literally creating the picture wherein the emotion can be distinguised.
When I started, I wasn’t aware that I started a quest: so for now, until I decide to stop, I will try to free people’s minds, and allow them to withdraw from reality and give them the opportunity to dig into a wild roller coaster of a vivid dream.
You’re an artist! You design book covers, album covers, and create wallpaper art. You’re a photographer, designer, digital artist, and installation artist.
What got you here?
It’s a long story, when I was 21 I got my first DSLR and I was very much inspired to take photographs, so I tried to learn the techniques and the rules of photography, but I felt that photographs were not enough for me. Since I was a child I have been illustrating; so I had some concepts and visuals in mind which I wanted to express with my photography, but in order to do that I had to learn Photoshop, and once I got the knack of it, I started to combine my vision with photographs and then I started on Deviantart. Soon after that, I began spreading my work on the internet, and then after some time I got my first commissioned work for a band in Ukraine!
Do you have any formal training in photography and/or art?
Sometimes I wish I had formal training in photography/art but I do not have any. You see, I graduated with a degree in Nursing from a medical school but I never practiced it at all!
I grew up in a family of artists, and since I was a child I was hooked on drawing and illustrating and using line art, but when I started painting I got frustrated, so I shifted to music and composition for some time..
Then finally when I turned 21 I got a DSLR as a present from my older brother. Upon first using the camera I could feel a very strong passion burning, so I decided to learn more about photography. I taught myself how to use the camera, and then soon after I started to learn Photoshop.
What is your favorite part about being an artist?
I’ve always thought that being an artist is one of the best jobs on earth. First of all, you are very much free to express yourself, you get paid to express yourself, and if you’re lucky, you won’t have to do anything else but make art because big curators will put you in their shows and collectors will buy your work for excessive amounts.
Why do you create?
I create because I live. I create because I am free.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from mostly everything around me; from the universalities of human emotion which are mostly of raw and gripping emotions; twisted dreams and post-apocalyptic visions.
What tools are the most important for your creations?
How important is stock photos in your work?
Oh stock photographs are very important for a photo-manipulator unless you have all the time and money in the world to take photographs of lush forests in Europe, stunning and picturesque seas in the Pacific and the Atlantic; or of gorgeous models wearing expensive looking gowns and such.
I believe photography for me is very essential, because I’m a frustrated painter and illustrator and photos help me create what I envision. I do have my own stock photographs but if I don’t have what I need, I would usually purchase them from shutterstock or download royalty free stock images that ALLOW COMMERCIAL uses of their work like some images in sxc.hu or sometimes deviantart. Yes, be careful in downloading stock photographs, especially if you’re new in graphic design or commissioned artworks, make sure that the stock photographs you use will not breach any Copyright laws or else you’ll be going down the drain in no time.
Tell us about the process of creating a piece of ‘digital art’? How much time goes into this process?
It depends really on many things like the photos you need, your skill, your concept and also your mindset. If you have all the photos you need, you have an already made concept and you’re like a Photoshop Guru who happens to be very inspired and has been using it since its early days then it would be really quick! Unfortunately, I’m not this guy I have stated above, so it takes some time. To think about a concept takes a long time but like I said if you’re inspired then it is easy. Sometimes if you don’t have the photos you need, then you’d have to buy some photos off the stock websites or download free stocks which are available for commercial use. On average, it would take me 3-6 hours or sometimes longer just because I’m meticulous.
Much of your work feels very inspired by surrealism and Salvador Dali. Can you talk about surrealism and Salvador Dali?
Yes, I have been inspired by the motives of Dadaism and surrealism! In my work, like most surrealists, I employ elements of surprise combined with associations of objects or forms which are illogical yet universal, but based on a contemporary time frame; the manner of creating is being directed by thought, but without control, although put into effect by reason, emotions and pure aesthetic.
Can you tell us about the series “The Ever Increasing Distance to Life”? (images below)
The Ever Increasing Distance to Life is inspired by my expression of rejection towards the continuous rise of commercialism, capitalism and the bourgeois capitalist societies. I wanted to reach out, to remind, that life is not just connected to mundane things such as money, corporate careers and positions and the burdens and pressures of society, because there is always something more than that.
What image have you created that holds the most personal meaning to you?
My artwork Tales from the Hidden Attic (image shown above in square image, top right) will always have a deep connection with me. As it is one of those artworks I created solely by the dictation of a dream and reasoning but guided by aesthetic. This image is based on my great need and wish to travel and explore cultures and worlds different from my home, and yet I was only and could only be bound to one place at that time.
What is the story behind the series of photographs titled, “Portraits of Georgia”?
The story goes like this – I was invited to Tbilisi, Georgia for an international group exhibition called “Punctum Contra Punctum” at the Georgian National Museum. I stayed there for 2 weeks while the organizers Maka Razmadze and Alex Berdysheff gave us a tour of the picturesque and historical landmarks of their country. After that I had to leave for Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan where I was also invited for an art festival called “Cradle of Humankind” where I created some artworks based on their city. I came back to Georgia after a few days in Nakchivan and Baku when it occurred to me that if I will be traveling around Georgia some more I should document the people and the lifestyles here which really sparked a huge interest in me. I then started going around the city of Tbilisi and their summer “capital” Batumi to capture the life, the culture by portraying the dwellers in their natural environment and the visitors in an alien environment.
In your series of “wallpaper art” your images of digital art were made into wallpapers, with interior design by Ed-Wall Art.
What is the intent of this project? Are your images available to be bought as wallpaper for your home? Or was this more of an art installation?
The ED-Wall Art Project was developed by Magdalena Wozniak from Warsaw, Poland and it started when I was invited to the artist-in-residence in Galeria Bielska BWA in Bielsko-Biala, Poland. Together with three Polish artists, Magdalena chose several artworks from each artist which would be used and sold as wallpaper designs. ED-Wall Art designs received national recognition and it was shown on several design TV programs on Polish TV. The intention mainly was to produce wallpapers which would combine the complex beauty of fine art and the luxuriousness of interior design.
What is your proudest moment as an artist?
I think I can say that the proudest moment I had as an artist was when people from around the world send you messages that your art inspires them! There was even a person who sent me a message saying that my art helped her in his struggles in life and that my image moved her.
What are you working on now?
I’m working now on several design projects, I’m currently trying to finish a 4-panel digipak for a French band called Evenline and an album cover for the American/Dutch DJ/producer Scumfrog.
What would you like to see yourself doing in 5 years?
In 5 years time, I would like to see myself living near a lake with a lovely wife and my art selling at incredibly high prices! And also, my own image bank where publishing companies will visit this site to purchase pre-made works! That would be awesome!
Interviewed by Angela Butler