This article is republished in honor of Mischa who passed away on November 2, 2021. The article originally appeared in Art+ Magazine Issue 53 (2017).
The artist Mischa has developed his own technique of painting with resin.
Text by Marz Aglipay.
Painting with resin is an unusual practice. It takes familiarity with resin to be able to control how it can be used in the same manner as with acrylic or oil. Rarely does one come across an artist who can work with this industrial chemical with such a high level of ease, turning it into his medium of choice for fine art.
Before Michael Toms Semana – also known as Mischa – ventured into fine art, he was involved in their family business of making santos and religious images, which is the specialized handicraft of his Batangas hometown. At one point, he was tasked to oversee the expansion of their business in Cebu. This was where he built on his working knowledge of using resin as material.
Inside a santo-making shop along the highway of Santa Teresita, Batangas is a shared space where Mischa works. The smell of resin fills the workshop that is occupied by resin molds and statues of saints and other religious images. “Sometimes, clients visit the shop and then they see my work and ask what I do,” Mischa tells us in the vernacular.
Mischa works in the wee hours of the morning before easing into his fatherly duties of tending to his three kids before they leave for school. “I miss eating with my hands,” he says, showing us his hands, which have traces of resin on them. Having been exposed to resin for a long time, he has been desensitized to the strong smell of fumes and doesn’t even wear a mask or gloves when handling resin.
During the Art+ team’s visit to his studio, Mischa demonstrates his painting process. He places crumpled plastic sheets and bubble wrap on the floor and lays on top of it a thin piece of cloth. The plastic is used as a base to shape the cloth. Manipulating the cloth and plastic, Mischa is able to form ridges, grooves, and creases on the cloth, lending it a heavily wrinkled texture.
He proceeds to mix resin with toner and hardener. The toner adds color to the resin. He uses the colored resin to paint different areas of the cloth, filling up the “canvas” with a combination of hues. The cloth gains depth and form as the resin dries, turning it into a three-dimensional painting.
A career in art was not something Mischa planned or expected. He painted simply because he wanted to, and he initially painted his abstractions on flat canvases. Fate would lead him to cross paths with senior artists who would guide his transition into the world of art. “When I came across Virgilio Cuizon in 2010, he taught me the ropes of art-making, from signing my artworks to proper pricing,” says Mischa. Cuizon even gave him his monicker.
Mischa joined art groups such as KUNST Pilipino and Grupo Sining Batangueno, with whom he did group shows in Batangas. This paved the way for him to meet Ramon Orlina, who discovered his work in a group show in Lemery. From there, Orlina exhibited his paintings in Museo Orlina’s Reflections Gallery.
The artist came up with his resin-based painting technique under unusual circumstances. “I gifted a friend with an acrylic work. A couple of years later, when I visited my friend, I found my work draped over their air-con,” he tells us matter-of-factly. Despite seeing his work in a neglected state, he found its form and shape attractive. This sparked curiosity as to how he could recreate the same draped look in his artworks. It also helped that resin was readily available to him.
Mischa has been painting since 2009 and has since been actively joining art competitions, including the Metrobank Arts and Design Excellence (MADE) awards, where he once qualified as a finalist. “To join art contests, I would paint with acrylic so that I can join. Resin is still considered as mixed media in art contests,” he says.
Mischa had his solo exhibition, titled Flight, at the SM Art Center last May. Today, he keeps himself busy in his Sta. Teresita workshop, preparing new works that will be different from his last collection. He attributes the strides he has made as an artist to his early abstract works and humble beginnings. Then and now, art-making feeds his soul and gives him a sense of fulfillment.