Hans Brumann’s sculptures are based on images that come to him in dreams. He translates them into solid forms using mother-of-pearl, kamagong and other kinds of local hardwood and, lately, steel.
Perhaps it is because Brumann sleeps every night under a cross made entirely of Mindanao-sourced mother-of-pearl, hence, he keeps harnessing the material to literally turn his dreams into solid works of art.
“Mother-of-pearl shines, it changes with the light,” he explained.
Brumann is foremost a renegade jeweler. Long before other so-called creatives caught on his idea to use mother-of-pearl as ornament, the Swiss craftsman was already blending this material with gold and silver to produce breathtaking baubles that merit second glances.
Turning mother-of-pearl into life-size sculptures is just raising the bar.
On display until Sept. 1 at the Globe Art Gallery in Bonifacio High Street is a curated set of Brumann’s dreams—“Variations in Mother of Pearl,” which are sculptures made of the said material and hardwood. These are works that defy gravity as they attempt to capture the images he sees while asleep.
The centerpiece “Variations” is a multilayered solid work of Tahitian black-lip mother-of-pearl, locally sourced Pinctada maxima and kamagong wood.
“Crossroads” is an impressive interaction of mother-of-pearl, yellow and red narra and tiger kamagong.
“The Window” is literally a window made of mother-of-pearl (perhaps an homage to the ubiquitous capiz windows of heritage houses) that frames a Tahitian black-lip mosaic.
“Barong Barong” is a zany combo of mother-of-pearl, hardwood and stone pebbles to recreate an improvised house commonly lived in by informal settlers. The romance comes from his move to use mother-of-pearl as a backdrop of clouds that frames the house.
“Bali,” which Brumann admits is a favorite, is a mind-boggling arrangement of mother-of-pearl and blocks carved from molave, kamagong, narra and yakal wood reminiscent of sapin-sapin.
“Interlock” is an intriguing Transformers-type sculpture with a three-dimensional mother-of-pearl frame that can be detached from a kamagong and molave base.
“Tribute to Pachelbel” is a collection of kamagong, narra and molave wood carved like piano keys. It also features squares of mother-of-pearl with “blisters” that are naturally occurring pearls.
Brumann said only five percent of the mother-of-pearl slabs delivered by his supplier come with these blisters. “I look for the really nice ones. The asymmetrical-shaped blisters are those created by nature. But sometimes, they put grains inside the mother-of-pearl so it could make more rounded blisters that are technically cultured pearls. I just put them together,” he explained.
Other times, Brumann would dream of images in flux. He tries to capture them by sketching them immediately upon waking and records them for posterity using steel.
“Falling Leaves,” for example, is a Christmas-tree-shaped work straight from Dr. Seuss that combines steel with molave, narra, kamagong and yakal carvings.
“Web Trap” has a lot more going on and appears more Freudian. Trapped in a geometric plume of steel are figures similar to a hammer, a stick-shift and a golf putt.
“Some things come in a dream and I sketch them,” Brumann said with a shrug, when asked to explain what “Web Trap” is about.
It is long after his waking moment that the sculptor eventually decides whether an image from a dream deserves to be turned into a standing sculpture or a flat work that will hang on a wall.
Before the exhibit formally opened, Brumann hinted he would focus on creating another collection of jewelry. But turning in more mother-of-pearl sculptures will always be another preoccupation.
“I decided sometime ago this will be my hobby when I finish the jewelry business—to go on and continue because I am very creative. When you work with certain materials, you always see something else,” he said.
Hans Brumann’s “Variations in Mother of Pearl” exhibition at Globe Art Gallery, B1 level, Globe Tower, Bonifacio Global City, runs until Sept. 1.