Originally from Manila, Philippines, Matt Manalo creates work as a form of an ongoing journal of experiences he has had in navigating the society as a Filipino/brown-skinned person. He continues to reconcile his old life with his new life in Houston, which is known as one of the most diverse cities. Manalo states, “As an artist, I was looking for a tangible outlet to express my feelings, identity, memories, and newfound experiences.” He is constantly redefining his definition of “Home” and identity while struggling with memories from his homeland and the feeling of being split into two pieces emotionally.
Manalo’s work represents an abstracted image of a specific place or memory from either back home or from his new surroundings in Houston and the different cities he has been. The artist incorporates repetitive marks, shapes, collage, stamped images, and text on his work. They signify the amount of “to and fro” with flashbacks or conversations he has when making a piece. One notable aspect of Manalo’s work is the sensitivity to materials and significant amount of physical or visual texture on the surface, which represents the grittiness of living in a city like Manila.
The process involves cutting, pasting, or stamping words/letters onto a surface that is either made from paper pulp or cement mixed with gel medium. The words chosen come from phrases that strike the artist’s experience as he navigates his surroundings as an artist of color. The choice of materials represent the permanence and fragility of these thoughts/phrases.