From left: the artist's war chest of spent copper and brass cartridges which he will use for his anti-coronavirus wall; Federico "Pete" Jimenez wearing his 2014 piece "Goose Bumps."
Culture Art

Using bullets and cartridges in his art, this sculptor wages war against the coronavirus

Intending for his art to elicit repulsion from those who view it, Federico Jimenez wishes for the supernatural end to the virus ravaging the world. BY BARBARA MAE NAREDO DACANAY
ANCX | Jun 14 2020

In his most recent work, sculptor Federico "Pete" Jimenez wants to symbolize the potency of the Coronavirus, and underscore the importance of its eradication. “It is my way of telling people, ‘Hey, the virus is around us, like a roaring lion waiting to devour. We should act aggressively,’” he says.

Spikes and protrusions—physical traits of the virus itself—have been a theme in the artist’s nature-inspired works from 2006 to 2017, and he says this current piece is a way of mitigating those similarities with COVID-19. “Instead of steel and other industrial waste that I have been using in artworks since 2000, I have chosen bullets and cartridges for artworks to wage war against the corona virus,” Jimenez shares, adding he has a big war-chest to match corona’s fire. His materials include ¼ to ¾ inch lead bullet heads and ¼ to ½ inch copper and brass cartridges. 

The artist says he has been collecting these from the Armscor firing range in Marikina, where he practices as a pistol shooter. He joins shooting competitions, and is a member of the Team Alpha Shooting Club.

 

Supernatural end

“Now that the corona virus is around us I will make hundreds of rambutan-sized artworks and install them in a wall, from floor to ceiling,” Jimenez explains. “A fist, which is bigger than rambutan, is the maximum size per artwork.” About 200 of these pieces, each with 25 bullet heads and cartridges as protrusions and spikes, will be placed randomly on five panels of plywood that measure eight feet by four feet. Spanning 20 feet, these installations are targets, Jimenez says, that viewers can shoot down mentally as everyone wants to see its end.

The artist working at his Quezon City studio, where he was been creating pieces since 2000.

As epidemiologists, scientists, and virologists around the world work hard at finding cures and vaccines, artists should pave the way to symbolically stop the coronavirus. For his part, Jimenez wants his installations to elicit a strong repulsion from the viewer, and, hopefully, pave the way for the virus’ supernatural end.

“I am not using new and shining bullets for these artworks, although they are longer and more straight,” Jimenez says. The sculptor prefers crooked and spent bullets and cartridges because of their “mysterious character shaped by nature and old fire.”

For a base, Jimenez is looking for a type of modelling clay that hardens like steel, to create roundish platforms where he can implant the spent bullets and cartridges to mimic corona’s dangerous spikes. “The modelling clay I have been using in the past is not available due to the long lockdown. So I’m thinking of leather, plastic wood, and rubber to create the roundish platform for bullets and cartridges,” he explains.

Since galleries have not yet re-opened and their future remains uncertain, Jimenez might mount his artwork in his studio in Fern Village, Quezon City. The venue, which doubles as his residence, is also where he began creating art in 2000, almost two decades after he finished his art studies at the University of the Philippines in 1982. An animation expert, Jimenez is now president and chief operations officer of post-production house Optima Digital, where he has been working for the past 30 years. 

 

Past works

This isn’t the first time that Jimenez used bullet heads and cartridges in his creations. The material was present in three artworks that he exhibited at Altro Mondo Greenbelt in 2017.

He welded almost 1,000 two-inch long M16 cartridges together to create a 26-inch tall artwork entitled “Farm, not Arms.” It was an installation composed of three AK47 rifles that served as legs of a crown of tree with heart-shaped leaves, all done with the cartridges a la Lego. He got his materials from military men during target shootings at Armscor.

Jimenez attached 39 bullet heads and 42 cartridges to the holes of a 10-inch diameter brass plate in "Balang Araw," which was shown at Altro Mondo, Greenbelt 5 in 2017.

“Farm, not Arms” is a jarring piece done with a pure heart for change. As the name implies, it appeals for farms, the common good of the marginalized. “The AK47 is about resistance or the leftist’s armed struggle, while M16 is about weapons of the western world,” Jimenez elaborates. This approach of fusing violent images to radically aspire for impossible changes is similar to his current approach to create COVID-triggered artworks. “Farm” is now owned by businessman Raul Francisco. 

In another artwork entitled “Bottle Collector,” Jimenez used a total of 45 fired lead bullet slugs (¼ to ¾ inch long), and copper and brass cartridges (¼ to ½ inch long) as colorful accents on a roundish blob made of hardened clay. They were minor accents. The artwork was dominated by nine multi-colored miniature bottles, 2.5-inch long each, that were buried on hardened clay to look like spikes and protrusions. The 25-inch assemblage was mounted on an antique wooden structure with swirling design. It was done to boast his collection of colorful and small bottles – like gems lined up for future art shows, said the artist, adding it is in his private gallery.

In “Balang Araw,” another old work in 2017, Jimenez used 39 bullet heads and 42 cartridges that were attached with glue-like modelling clay on several holes found all over a round brass plate with 10-inch diameter. “The brass plate came from the belly of an industrial machine. The bullet heads and casings came from a firing range,” the artist says, adding that the artwork was meant to reverberate with past energy of machines and movements of bullets.

To see more of Federico Jimenez's works, click on the gallery:

"Farms, not Arms" welded almost a thousand two-inch long M16 casings together, shown at Altro Mondo in 2017. 

"The Bottle Collector," a 25-inch assemblage composed of 45 spent bullet heads as accents shown at Altro Mondo in 2017. 

"Dots the Way, Aha, Aha, I Like it" 16 iron ball grinders as spikes, shown at Altro Mondo in 2017. 

"Tiny Bubbles" has nine protrusions made of iron ball grinders on a metal steel plate background, shown at Art in the Park in 2017.  

"Suntok sa Buwan" has 1/2 to 1/4-inch protrusions created by .45 caliber bullets, shown at Taksu Gallery Kuala Lumpur in 2014. 

"Brain Freeze" has spikes made of 15 four-inch long railway nails, shown at Magnet Gallery in 2012. 

"Barya Lang Po sa Umaga" has 50 coin-like protrusions made of two-inch diameter and 1/2 inch thick steel plate on an open LPG gas tank, shown at the Alliance Francaise de Manille in 2006.  

“Spring Collection” has protrusions of nine oval shaped steel plates on a diameter steel frame, shown at Alliance Francaise de Manille in 2006.  

Recalling his creative process, Jimenez says that the materials he used in his past works were found in junk shops. He used them raw, or allowed them to breathe their age and identity. He also re-fashioned them with merciless beatings, or decorated and colored them to give them a contemporary look. His aim is to tell stories that bend more than obey the steel, and penetrate the material beyond its symbol of capitalism, colonization, industrialization and progress. An article in 2012 described him as a “mad Pygmalion of industrial waste.”

Jimenez used almost 450 pieces of round steel plates, each with 3/4 –inch diameter and ½ inch thickness, welded them at the back and created a shiny background of “Tiny Bubbles.” This is a 24 x 24 inch wall-bound artwork that was shown at Makati’s Art in the Park in 2017. The piece’s rusty protrusions were made of nine iron ball grinders, each with two-inch diameter and weighed one kilo. One set was bought by an unnamed foreigner, the other “Tiny” remains with the artist.

The main body of “Dots the Way, Aha, Aha, I Like It,” was a truck’s rectangular stainless steel gas tank (28-inch long, 25-inch high, and 34-inch deep). “It was too clean when I found it. I brought it to a construction site on the corner of Tandang Sora and Mindanao Avenue. Pinaatrasan ko ng forklift ng ilang beses, sa iba’t ibang angles until I was happy with its shape,” Jimenez says. He decorated it with 16 dot-like protrusions made of eight iron ball grinders, each with five–inch diameter and weighed four kilograms; and eight more iron ball grinders, each with three-inch diameter and three kilograms. The heavyweight sculpture on the round was shown at Altro Mondo Greenbelt in 2017.

Jimenez pumped 45-calibre bullets and created ¼ to ½ inch protrusions on a 16-inch diameter round steel plate, to mimic a lunar landscape in an artwork entitled “Suntok sa Buwan” which was shown at Malaysia’s Taksu Gallery in 2014. It was bought by broadcaster Jay Taruc in 2015. The artist also made “Goose Bumps” with a stainless steel helmet used by Honour Guards that he found in a junk shop near Fort Bonifacio in Taguig. The piece was shown at Makati’s Art in the Park in 2014.

The main body of “Brain Freeze,” a 26-inch high, 14-inch wide, and 14-inch thick sculpture was shaped by a heavy duty steel crasher in Antipolo. “The machine crashes metals into uniform sizes for easier loading and transport to melting stations,” Jimenez says. He created spikes on “Brain” with 15 four-inch long railway nails. Then he painted the entire piece with green acrylic, enamel, and oil “ala abstract expressionist” to give it a contemporary look. It was shown at Magnet Gallery and bought by a German national in 2012.

 

Then and now

Jimenez used a total of 24 two-inch long railway nails, welded their tips at the center, inside the artwork, and created a mushroom-like four-inch dimeter sculpture entitled “Small World.” It was shown at Magnet Gallery in 2008, and was given as a gift to Australia-based friends and IT experts Jesse and Sylvia de Guzman.

“Part of Spring Collection,” depicted a four-feet diameter steel frame (from a calesa’s wheel) with nine spikes made of small oval-shaped steel plates, an assemblage that stands on a 30-inch industrial spring that he got from an old printing press machine. “Because of the spring, it sways back and forth with the wind or when touched,” Jimenez says. It was bought by Myrna Yao, owner of Richprime Global Inc;, during a show at Alliance Francaise in 2006.

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“Barya Lang Po sa Umaga,” is a 24-inch artwork, composed of 14-inch round part of a cut LPG tank. Its spikes and protrusions were made of 50 coin-shaped steel plates (two- inch in diameter and ½ inch thick). The assemblage was placed on top of a 12-inch spring that was sourced from a tricycle’s side car. It was bought by Central Bank of the Philippines during a show at Alliance in 2006.

“I like texture in my artworks. I like objects that are raw, rough, and uneven,” Jimenez says. “Creating spikes and protrusions in my artworks is my way of producing anti-bodies against my fear of being pricked or wounded by sharp objects.”

The fear began when he explored the sea as a scuba diver. “I always avoid lionfish and sea urchins when I’m diving. I’m dreadfully afraid of the lionfish because it has plenty of spikes. Natusok na ako ng sea urchin,” he shares. “Nowadays, I expose myself under the sun, exercise, take double doses of vitamins and food supplements, walk, and pray for protection.”