Wheels and Metaphors: Michael Sagaran and the Art of Moving Forward

Details of the past in fast cars and faster times.
IMAGE CONRAD MANILA

It took a few lives for Michael Sagaran to rediscover art again. The once-young-and-promising art major moved toward a very different path since his days as a finalist for the Shell National Art Competition. You can even say that he's been a tourist for quite some time now; a tourist who deals with fellow tourists. And like most tourists, he's been passing through, drifting, ruminating, and just waiting to get back. Unlike most of them, though, he's not coming off some vacation. He's coming off a creative slumber.

Sagaran has worked at several hotels in the past, with one of the most recent ones being Taal Vista Hotel, where he was the head of public relations and marketing department. Today, he is New Coast Hotel Manila's head of marketing. Corporate life isn't exactly the sexiest, one may imagine. Beneath the glam and calmness of the surface of hotels are staffers working double-time to  keep everything in tip-top shape. Nobody knows this more than people like Sagaran. Still, that doesn't mean that there was ever artistic bankruptcy. Wonder persisted all around.

"Art is always part of it—from being in-charge of visual collaterals, photography, setups, and more," says Sagaran, who started out as a graphic artist for the first hotel he worked at. "Research, meditation, relaxation, and visualization are important parts of the creative process."

"I had a very supportive General Manager, Ms. Luchie Javier, and colleagues. So I was eventually promoted to head the new unit of PR and Creatives for a few months under the Office of GM. After that, my career trajectory shifted to PR and marketing."

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Photo by Michael Sagaran.

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Painting was still a hobby of his on the side. He tells us that he's been a prolific painter for five years now, which only accelarated during the lockdown. Many artists have said that the pandemic taught them the power of autonomy and inner machinations of creativity. That was the case for Sagaran, as well. Where he went, so did his art. With that, he found loyal patrons who commissioned a few pieces.

Sagaran traces his roots as an artist to his days as an advertising major. "A lot of parts of the advertising and fine arts curriculum are composition, layout, photography, and painting," he expresses. His art now also happens to be a reflection of hotel life. "Having been exposed to several international hotel chains, I developed my keenness in details [and] how to visually present a sense of luxury."

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That kind of class and refinement carries over to his works, too. We may recall an online series of his with ArtPH Online called Vespa History series. It featured nine of Vespa's most culturally impactful models. These include depictions of a 1947 Vespa 98 II Serie, 1949 Vespa Circuito 125, 1956 Vespa 150, and Vespa 1982 PX150, among others.

Here, we saw Sagaran's brand of realism on full display. Masculine and vibrant in composition, elegant and tranquil in space, these depictions carry the memory of Vespa's functionality, superb engineering, and youthful glory. They are, in fact, a celebration of such.

It shares the same characteristics with Sagaran's Mercedes-Benz SL series and his latest exhibition at Conrad Manila. As part of the hotel's 20th edition of its Of Art and Wine art exhibit, his works at Gallery C showcase themes any hotelier would recognize: light, warmth, mood, and care. Sagaran aptly entitled the whole thing, Moving Forward.

The show, at its core, with its wheels, are a metaphor for movement, whether it's the urge or the act itself. It takes movement from pure aspiration to a moral duty. "[It] is about you, about all of us. It’s about our tenacity and will to overcome the grimness of the pandemic," he claims. "Just like every victory amid the struggles, something good and beautiful will always blossom."

"1929 Rolls Royce Phantom" by Michael Sagaran, Acrylic on Canvas.

Photo by CONRAD MANILA.
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"1906 Harley Davidson Model 1" by Michael Sagarn, Acrylic on Canvas.

Photo by CONRAD MANILA.

When we say "the good old days," we are often taken back to a specific time, place, and setting in our lives. The cars in Sagaran's works point toward the exact same thing. These vintage cars, scooters, jeepneys, and more serve as milestones and reminders of an old world through a new-world lens. They talk about the ever-changing, ever-difficult contexts (think: world wars, the post-industrial revolution, recessions, oil crises, fizzled-out trends) they've been through. The viewer, according to the artist, should take these as allegories for our own post-pandemic adaptation.

It comes from Sagaran's own bout with inner questioning and wild intuition. "I guess the urge of going to places we were limited to go to due to lockdowns, plus the anticipation of fast-forwarding to the new normal, empathically connected and appealed to our soul."

He adds: "The goal is to inspire and remind viewers and art collectors to always keep being faithful and continue moving forward despite the uncertainties and challenges." This is part of the reason why we see a lot of color, as well. These colors possess tangents of vibrance, and are shaped by the brilliance of optimism. It also shows us the spirit of the Of Art and Wine series and how it hopes to move forward into the future.

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Sagaran is back in familiar grounds during unfamiliar times. For this particular juncture, he is now behind the wheel and with the good old days behind. The open road makes for the most promising of adventures.

Of Art and Wine: Moving Forward is on exhibit for purchase until October 22, 2022, in partnership with The Artisan Cellars.

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About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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