I wonder how many parents (with the best intentions) redirect their children from a career in art. And how many children grow up and eventually find their way back to it anyway. As a teenager Jorge Manilla wanted to be an artist like his father and grandfather (both were traditionally trained goldsmiths and engravers). But when the 15 year old told his mother he wanted to become a sculptor she threatened to kick him out of the house if he didn’t focus on a real career…like boxing (a prestigious national sport in his native Mexico).
“That was the moment of one of the biggest decisions in my life, and with it I decided to go completely into boxing and work for a sculptor. And this saved my life in every way. Boxing gave me discipline and structure and a clear mind to decide the next step in my life.” (via: Oslo National Academy of Arts)
Several years later and in need of extra cash Manilla was thinking of leaving boxing and began doing modelling for drawing classes at the San Carlos Art Academy in Mexico City. It was there that he decided to study drawing and sculpture (1994-1997) and later jewellery and silversmithing at the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), Mexico City, Mexico (1998-2002). He would go on to obtain a Bachelors degree in Sculpture (2002-2003) at the Royal Academy of Arts in Ghent, Belgium and a Masters in Jewellery and Silversmithing (2003-2006) from St Lucas University College of Art and Design in Antwerp. He moved to Belgium in 2003 lives and is currently working on his PhD at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
As a non-expert in the field of jewellery I experience an underlying uneasiness when I look at Manilla’s work, something that both disturbs and invites at the same time. Blackened, bulging and mammalian in a weird way, but oh sooo tactile. But he explains what that’s about…
“My central themes are human feelings, death and life. Each piece is like a small altar – physiological, emotional and religious. I like to translate this into materials. Mexicans are very bodily – we say hello, kiss, hug and touch hands. To me, touching is very important, and I am really into natural material, like leather, wood, stones and human bones, because they are related to my cultural past, and the materials have tactility, temperature and heaviness.” (via: Oslo National Academy of Arts)
I highly recommend checking out Manilla’s website here where you’ll see the full breadth of his work and get a peak into why he does what he does. Pretty amazing.