Jem Magbanua on navigating spaces through art
Visual artist Jem Magbanua shares the inspiration behind her captivating art, exploring diverse spaces and creating rituals that nurture her process.
Your art brings a sense of calm and introspection. Is there an on-going theme or subject that your art revolves around?
"I tend to be a more quiet person and am very interior, so early on, drawing became an outlet for me to observe and process my environment. Having lived between the Philippines and Singapore, I developed a fascination with the way our spaces shape our ideas and our identities.
This fascination expanded into anchor points (which I refer to as ‘points of tension’) that my artistic practice now hinge upon: tension between natural and artificial spaces, permanence and transience, public and domestic. I am interested in the way external, physical worlds like architecture or furniture reflect and intertwine with internal, cerebral worlds."
Are there any rituals that help you in your creative process?
"One thing that I’ve implemented early on in my freelance career is to make a concerted effort to take the time to properly dress up, even if all my time is spent in my home studio. Since I cannot physically separate my home space from my studio space, the acts of getting dressed and putting even a minimal amount of make-up help me delineate my mind between leisure and work. It also gives me the right posture of respect and seriousness when I approach my studio work.
Whether it’s a pristine tshirt, well-tailored pants, or a few brass bangles on my wrist, wearing thoughtfully made pieces is one of the necessary steps in my morning routine that gives me firm footing to connect with my creative flow."
Can you offer a glimpse into your own space or studio? What essentials do you surround yourself to inspire your process?
"Natural light streaming through a window. House plants: the act of giving care and, in return, observing their growth is thoroughly satisfying and humbling. A handmade mug: when everyday acts, even as mundane as drinking my cup of coffee, are imbued with a connection to artists I deeply admire, I feel all the more in touch with my creative flow. Hand balm conveniently sits within my reach; it reminds me to take breaks in between long hours of drawing and contemplate the piece sitting in front of me."
How does your art influence your personal style or everyday wardrobe choices?
"My artistic influences have always been on the more soft and restrained side of things so those are the type of pieces that I am naturally drawn to in my own wardrobe. I like things that aren’t complicated and fussy. If I am able to spend a whole day moving comfortably around the studio in an outfit but also look put-together enough to run errands or have a casual dinner out with friends, then that is a successful outfit to me."
We love that you wear a lot of local brands. What are some favorite go-to things on your rotation?
"I am deeply drawn to the elevated practical and versatile nature of APARA Studio’s pieces. I have quite a few of their pieces that go through heavy rotation throughout the week. One particular piece that I especially adore is their Oat Button Down, which I can easily take from a whole work day in the studio to dinner out with friends. I love how Capricho’s bags blend the elegance of the natural rattan weave with a practical, durable polyethylene-based material which makes them perfect for any occasion. Golden Monstera’s Bangles and Earrings easily elevates the elegance of an outfit.
The Andanté Smoking Loafer is a timeless and versatile silhouette that adds a layer of sophistication to anything I pair it with. I was particularly drawn to its delicately tapered toe as well as the cushioned heel-area that helps cuts down on break-in time."
What are some upcoming exhibitions or projects that we should lookout for?
"I am currently working towards an upcoming solo show with Galerie Stephanie in March, so please come by for that! I am using graphite pencil as my main medium for this particular show. These past few years have been filled with pieces that experimented with color so going back to the simplicity of pencil is a comfort to me.
Additionally, since 2021 I’ve been working with the creative team of Muma World, a fashion label based in Australia, to create hand-drawn illustrations for their whimsical resort wear. We just released our third capsule wardrobe and are slated to work on our fifth season next year. What I enjoy about the project is that I get to immerse myself in the flora and fauna of a particular continent as well as experiment with a louder, showy style compared to my personal artistic practice."