Pictures of Raymund Soberano
“Blooms,” an art exhibit featuring the luminous imprints of endemic and other flora of the Philippines by retired U.S.-based nurse and artist Julia Sumangil, recently opened at the Sining Makiling Gallery on campus Los Baños from the University of the Philippines.
A lumen print, an art form pioneered in the 1830s by William Henry Talbot, a British scientist and photography pioneer, is essentially a solar photogram or, generically, an image made using light from the Sun. Without using a camera, these printed images are created by retaining organic objects such as flowers or plants on light-sensitive photo paper and exposing its parts to light.
Having no artistic background or hobbies, Sumangil earned a degree in agriculture from UP Los Baños where she majored in agronomy and later served as a researcher for notable institutions such as the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the Philippine Science Heritage Center. Realizing later that she had a calling in the medical sciences, she turned to nursing and emigrated to the United States in the late 1990s and worked for nearly two decades as a registered nurse. in the Bay Area, practicing medical-surgical nursing.
Her personal journey into lumen printing began about nine years ago when, as a hobby photographer and gardener, she came across beautiful prints while being a member of a Flickr group. She began studying the art form and became engrossed in self-study and experimentation with local flowers and plants from her garden or other places she visited.
“I am constantly inspired by the ethereal and fragile beauty of flowers and plants in lumen prints,” Sumangil said when asked why she focused on this form of expression. “Between nursing shifts, they gave me such joy that I was so constantly excited to create and experiment more with flowers growing in the garden than me and my late husband, Patrick Rose, have entertained for many years around our home in Oakland,” she recounted.
His creative journey has not gone unnoticed. Late last year, the highly respected international art printing magazine Petala featured Sumangil’s floral prints alongside well-known artists like Beatrice Oettinger, Isaac Zavale, Zandile Tshabalala and Azuma Makoto in a special edition which featured various interpretations of the flowers. One of Sumangil’s star works eventually made the cover of Petala magazine, further solidifying her pursuit of her chosen artistic expression using sunlight and nature’s creations.
When she arrived in the Philippines in February this year to visit her family, Sumangil received an invitation from the UP Los Baños Office for Cultural and Artistic Initiatives, through its director, Dr. Jerry Y. Yapo , to mount an exhibition that will focus on the endemic flora of the Philippines.
Given the very limited time to prepare for the exhibition, Sumangil made a series of trips to different parts of the Philippines which took her to Palawan, Zamboanga, Benguet and several other places so that she could create a dynamic yet unique exhibition. of various endemic Flowers and plants of the Philippines.
Sumangil’s ongoing exhibition features his soft, dreamy, yet colorful and mesmerizing images of familiar and unique Philippine floral species. Among its exhibits are prints of sampaguita (jasminum sambac heart), gumamela (hibiscus rosa), hoya obscura and hoya multiflora, jade vine (stronglodon macrobotys), and anahaw (livistona rotundadifolia). While printing these flowers, she also took images of seaweed in El Nido and cashews in Coron, both in Palawan.
Now recently retired from her nursing career, Sumangil spends her time printing lumens and tending to the beloved garden that she and her late husband Patrick tended to for all those years. Along with her past experience as a nurse and penchant for lumen printing, she is also a photographer, certified diver, researcher, cactus grower, conservationist and tireless traveler.
“I can’t literally paint but I can paint with the sun,” Sumangil joked as he enthusiastically explained his collection and lumen print work. “As I mount my first art exhibition, Patrick will always be my constant guide and inspiration for it was he who encouraged me to be perpetually curious about nature and God’s creations, and to seek fulfillment through art, travel and culture,” she added.
Sumangil’s lumen print exhibition at the Sining Makiling Gallery on the UPLB campus in Los Baños, Laguna will continue until August 5, 2022.
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