We met artist Emerson Sumaoang, or 'Mhearts' as he'd like to be called, in one of the art soirees we attended several months back. At that time, he said he was just cheering other artists on but he did mention that what he does is not your typical kind of art with brushes and paints.
We didn't understand what he meant then and even let his description of him being a "heartist" pass us by. In an event with dozens of talented artists showcasing the best of their works, he was more of an observer, an onlooker appreciating others' work.
It would take a few checks on his Instagram to understand what he is all about. For instance, we knew he loves hanging out on the beach, collecting pebbles and driftwoods and converting them into something that tells a story. He is passionate about the ocean and just as he is passionate as an artist, he also advocates for sea turtles. One thing does make him stand out, his evocative use of things found on the beach will capture your interest — from a driftwood he collected and painted on with a popular view of Thailand (which made him win one of the top awards at a Thailand Embassy art competition), to pebbles he put together to create different sea turtles, not only does he aim for entertainment but also showcases creativity when others are literally just seeing garbage when they go on a walk by the beach.
While Emerson is just a budding artist in a community already filled with creative people, he found a niche for himself that makes him stand out. Young and imaginative, he recently created a series of art that tells varying inspiring stories rising from the tragedy that was Shaheen.
One that captures this writer's interest is of a rescue mission, a helicopter hanging in the middle of a raging rain and on a rope hangs what appears to be an officer and a person in distress. I saw that photo somewhere and only when he posted the real-life inspiration did it hit me — it was bravery and heroism at its finest and it was a story that is best told in Emmerson's chosen medium — pebbles and sand.
That one photo of his artwork would be followed by another becoming a series in itself. From a family walking together under the rain with an umbrella made out of a shell and the rain made from tiny specks of broken glass to the family built out of pebbles and stones, it was powerful storytelling that I thought deserved a wider audience.
The series would end up with more than half a dozen of equally beautifully done work — from people working together to help out a car from being stuck to the spirit of people cleaning a community together, it was Emerson's artistic way of telling a story, one that he can only do with the medium that he chose.
"The inspiration behind my art is to show the damages caused by typhoon Shaheen and many other such incidents around the world. I want people to see what I have seen. People are risking their lives to save their fellow citizens, people are gathering to become one to support and to provide their fellow citizens with anything they have lost during the typhoon. I want my art to reach the hearts of the viewers to see how these tragic incidents affect different parts of the world, Emerson shared in an email interview.
It was only when he explained this that this writer come to understand what he meant by a heartist — it's telling very human stories and connecting art to reality in the hope that it will inspire someone.
"Each art piece can take me 3 to 4 hours to make, I need to select the right shape and shade of stone and stick them together to create a piece of art," he shared about his creative process.
“The stones are us, the people, and the waves are the situations in our lives that define and mould each one of us. For me, the stone speaks. They come in different shapes, shades and textures each one is shaped by time and the waves. They have differences, but all are the same stone — the same as us. That’s why I have a deep connection to it and I can easily connect it with others too," he said.
He added, "I am happy collecting stones and make them as a medium for my art to tell a story."
Emerson came to Oman as an artist and designer. Being in Oman for seven years, he already considers the country as his second home.
"It’s a wonderful place. I love the people here. They are kind and happy and I love nature. It’s amazing. I can also say that I found my heart here and it's one of the places that I explored more," he said.
This is why when a tragedy like Shaheen happens, he feels for the country just like when it happens to his typhoon-frequented Philippines.
"I consider myself as a 'heartist' because I always create art as an expression of my heart. I'm usually inspired by random objects I find and I love to transform them into a special piece of art," Emerson said.
"I like simplicity and that is reflected in my art as I find inspiration and create on whatever I have in my surroundings, whether it may be a stone, disposables or just a simple shell. The objects I find speak to me and fuel up my imagination to paint a story for it," he added.
If you want to see more of his work, you can follow him on Instagram: @mhearts_143.