Artist Jordan Mang-osan is a master of pyrography – an incredibly rare and beautiful artform that involves decorating slabs of wood with burn marks. While most other pyrography artists prefer to use specialized tools, Jordan prefers to harness the power of the sun with the help of a magnifying glass. Jordan uses the special technique to create beautiful landscapes and portraits on wood.
To create a piece, he starts off by sketching a design on to a piece of wood. He then uses a magnifying glass to concentrate solar heat on selected areas of the artwork. The heat etches permanent darkened lines into the wood, so intricate that it’s hard to imagine the artist’s hands never really touch the wooden canvas. The work is tedious, however – it takes several months of dedicated effort to manipulate the sun’s rays and etch each detail of the complex pieces.
Jordan is an Igorot – a collective name given to several Austronesian ethnic groups in The Philippines – from Tam-awan Village in the mountainous Cordilleras region. He took up drawing as a hobby when he was in elementary school, and it eventually became his career at the age of 19. Hailing from a poor family, Jordan’s underwent several struggles at the beginning of his art career. “In the beginning, as usual, if you are an artist the primary problem is finance,” he admitted. “Especially if you are still an aspiring artist and not known in the world of famous artists.” But Jordan managed to make ends meet by printing t-shirts and cards – they served as a source of income to help him take care of his daily needs. “This became my bread and butter, along with painting,” he said.
But things eventually worked out, and Jordan is now a successful full-time artist in Tam-awan Village. He studied charchoal drawing for a while, which qualified him to become a member of the Baguio Artist Guild in 1988. He is also proficient in working with acrylic paint and mixed media, but he prefers to stay close to his roots by using raw, indigenous materials and focusing on subjects that celebrate the rich culture of his people. He learned the art of solar drawing from his mentor, Santiago Bosi, a senior artist from Tam-awan Village.
Jordan is also a member of the highly reputed Tam-awan circle of artists. But he insists that fame is secondary – what’s more important to him is making sure his community and culture are represented in each one of his pieces. “For me, as an Igorot artist, I think that it is big help in tradition and culture, because as an artist you can preserve, develop or show to other cultures the Cordilleran culture through art,” he said. Jordan also explained that the role of the Tam-awan artists is to bring life to the vanishing Cordilleran culture and tradition, preserving it for future generations. “We inspire workshops for the young and we encourage building of talents in art through workshops so that the next generation will continue what we have started as a legacy to the Cordillerans,” he added.
Throughout his career as an artist, Jordan has received widespread recognition in the form of awards. He was recognized as an Outstanding Artist in 1993, during the 84th anniversary of Baguio City’s Charter Day. In 1994, he was awarded the Special Recognition for Arts and Culture, and the honor was bestowed on him again in 1997. He was included in the top 10 artists during the Philippine Regional Art Award in 2007, held at the National Museum in Manila.
Jordan’s work has been exhibited extensively across the nation and in other countries like Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Australia. He also participated in an art competition in the US, where he was the only artist permitted to leave the competition hall, because his medium was the Sun.
Photos: Jordan Mang-osan/Facebook