Wonders and Awe: The Art of Mat Relox, the Mangyan Artist of Mindoro

Written by: Noel Sales Barcelona of The Filipino Artists Magazine

In each brushstroke, one will see how devoted and in love this Mangyan artist to his craft.

For years, Maestro Mat Relox has taken his audience to the feast of colors. The images that he paints bring into the fore the beauty of the things that surround us, the emotions that we have felt, and the experiences that we had.

Reflections of beauty

As one might observe it, each of Relox’s work has life, soul, and spirit of its own. His works, dubbed only as the “Modern Series,” reflect the inner beauty Relox as an artist.

As one will see, these beautifully paintings are Relox’s tribute to the One, whose face we cannot see, but His beauty is being echoed by the things that He has formed and created. These are shown in the series of oil painting called “Himig ng Pag-ibig” (The Melody of Love). The serenity and beauty of the mountain slopes, the gold-and-green meadows, and the springs of water that make the fields alive, are sights to behold, and this Mangyan painter has immortalized them by capturing them in canvases.

The Abundant and Causeless Mercy of the Great Source

Moreover, his work, which he titled “By Faith: The Lord will take care of tomorrow,” reminds of this critic of what the prophet of Yahweh had said to the widow who lived in Zarephath: “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” (1 Kings 17: 14, New International Version)

The Lord is Jehovah Jireh, the one who provides all the needs of his people. The same thing has been echoed by His beloved Son, the Christ as He taught his disciple to completely surrender to the Will of God just like the lilies of the fields and the birds in the sky did: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 24Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12: 22 – 24, King James Version)

In his “Bunga ng Magandang Binhi” (The Fruit of a Good Seed), Relox shows everyone that hard and honest work is always being rewarded by bountiful harvest. In semiotics, or the art and science of interpreting symbols, the bunch of yellow bananas symbolizes abundance and fertility.

This reminds this critic of an old tale from Thailand, where a man is looking for ways to transform copper coins into gold; and how the wisdom and cleverness of his ageing father-in-law has had saved his family from the pits of poverty. The title of the story is “The Golden Harvest.”

Meanwhile, the fishes in his Modern Series, for this author, depict the causeless and unceasing mercy of the Creator to his people. “I am making you fishers of men,” says the Lord. And in every haul, gathered are the lost souls and bring them back to the mercy and love of God.

Moreover, these fishes also symbolize freedom, wisdom, transformation, and good fortune. In the Scriptures, there are several times that the Lord Jesus Christ had performed miracles using these creatures from the depths of the sea: the multiplying of fishes and loaves and the great catch, which happened twice: first, when his first disciples are being called to divine service; and second is during the last appearance of the Lord when he was resurrected from the grave. The latter is to prove that He is alive and well, that he truly resurrected from the dead.

Happiness on simple things and other positive messages

On the other hand, his traditional painting of a boy fixing his kite is an image of simplicity and of happiness that a simple thing, like that kite or guryon, crafted out of bamboo and Japanese rice paper, can bring.

The work reminds the audience to savor those little moments of happiness and to find that happiness and joy in the simplest things: a small flower that you can find in a garden, or the solace that you can find in reading a book, just like the painting of a lady in red which Relox titled simply as “Wild Rose.” Perhaps, the artist has a deeper meaning for this piece that is worthy to be placed in the middle of your home for its unique beauty and painting style.

His four-year-old pen and ink drawing, which Relox has titled Bawat Butil Ay Ginto (Each Grain is Gold), is a tribute to his tribe, which is considered as the keepers of the earth’s wisdom and bounty.

On the final note, with his years of experience as an artist, coupled with his sensibilities and positive core beliefs, Relox is more than a reflector of beauty; he became in itself the reflection of the beauties that he had immortalized and re-created on paper, on board, or on canvas. And with his up-and-coming show, Relox once again, will not only show his prowess as a visual artist but he will also trumpet the underlying positive and empowering messages of his works. Furthermore, because he is truly proud of his roots—as a Mangyan and as a Filipino—he truly is worthy of the title, “maestro.”