The eccentric work of Filipino Professor Julian Jumalon hasn’t taken the art world by storm.
Beneath a net of crazily criss-crossed power lines that drape from buildings to poles, the narrow backstreets that lead to the home of the late Professor Jumalon in suburban Basak are grey and grimy, with jumbled buildings propping up street-side stalls.
In the poorer barangays (council areas), street people push hand carts and tricycles made from water pipe, wrought from the ad-hock necessity of the daily struggle of life in the Philippines.
Professor Jumalon, a fine arts graduate, died in 2003 at the age of 90 after a lifetime spent collecting butterflies, painting and creating what are known as lepido mosaics.
The Jumalon Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary and Art Gallery is today run by his sons, Osman and Renae, but the lepidopterist’s humble garden is still a haven for hundreds of butterflies in season, with food plants attracting more than 50 different species.
In a colourful and sometimes risqué hour-long presentation, Renae explained the lives of butterflies and insects, focusing on the 30-odd species in Professor Jumalon’s butterfly collection.
Giant butterflies framed under glass hang amidst jumbled collections of coins, stamps, dolls, seashells, fossils and native artefacts – the lifetime efforts of a dedicated collector.
The simple gallery features a number of paintings and intricately detailed artworks made from thousands of damaged butterfly wings discarded by collectors, mailed to Professor Jumalon from around the world.
Jumalon recycled them into “paintings” using nature’s palette for inspiration. The artist used tiny slivers of the wings, painstakingly pieced together with scalpel, tweezers and glue to create a patchwork of vivid, tropical colours.
Electric blue, flashing emerald and opalescent green, mellow gold and velvet black butterfly wings were carefully blended into intricate mosaics of birds, animals, forests and people.
More than 900 butterfly species have been discovered in the Philippines, ranging in size from tiny yellow-winged flickers of colour in the jungle to the giant 8cm wingspan of Troides Magellanus, the biggest butterfly found in the archipelago.
In his lifetime, Jumalon discovered 20 new butterfly species and created 60 lepido mosaics, from a portrait of former Filipino president Jose Rizal to tribal art, jungle scenes and tropical birds.
His artwork hangs in galleries from Manila to Hong Kong and in the Vatican in Rome.
The museum and sanctuary has been open free to the public since 1974, with no admission fee set to enable access to students from poor barangays.
Troides Magellanus – Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons
All Other Photos Are © The Jumalon Museum