Different species of flora sprawl against the digital canvas, forming luscious orchards populated by exotic plants and wildflowers. Vines crawl everywhere, sprouting from basketballs, emerging from designer bags, and even entangling human bodies and wild critters. On human bodies, they often grow from limbs and torsos. This is the botanical art of Chesleigh Nofiel, or better known by his pseudonym, Alagadngsining.
电子画布上，充满异域风情的植被，勾勒出荒烟蔓草的植物世界。无处不在的藤蔓，从篮球萌芽、从名牌包袋中生长，或是紧紧缠绕于人体与野生身上，从人的四肢和躯干中探出头来。这是菲律宾艺术家 Chesleigh Nofiel 创作的植物艺术，他有一个更为人熟知的名字：Alagadngsining。
Alagad ng Sining is a Filipino term meaning “culture bearer” and can also be directly translated as “disciple of art.” With this, Nofiel’s art becomes more than just an exercise in aesthetics. His work aims to draw awareness towards environmental issues. The details and luscious colors are deliberate, designed to draw attention to the plants in order to showcase them as living creatures rather than just decorations. He adds, “I’m also a firm believer that the purpose of art-making is to nurture thought. I guess my personal taste is that it has to be both beautiful and political at the same time.”
在菲律宾语中，Alagad ng Sining 原意为“文化传承者”，也可以翻译成“艺术学徒”。就此，Alagadngsining 的艺术作品就不仅是一种美学表达，还旨在引起人们对环境问题的认识。精心描绘的丰富细节和浓郁色彩，吸引人们认真细看画中的植物，把它们当作生命体来看待，而不仅仅是装饰品。他补充说：“我坚信艺术创作的目的是孕育思想。我喜欢同时具有美感和政治意义的作品。”
The natural world has long been a personal interest for this Filipino artist. He’s been tending to plants ever since his childhood thanks to his mother’s love of plants. When they moved into Cavite, the current province he stays in, his mother experimented with landscaping and gardening using the small space they had. “I grew up surrounded by plants,” he says. “They are self-aware and they have their individual, autonomous, and purposeful lives. I would like to thank nature for enriching our lives.”
对于 Alagadngsining 而言，自然界一直是他的兴趣所在。他的母亲热衷于花花草草，在这样的耳濡目染下，他从童年时代起就一直在照料植物。后来，他随家人搬到目前居住的甲米地省（Cavite），他的母亲开始利用家里狭小的空间种植园艺。“我自小在充满植物的环境中长大。”他说，“植物也有自我意识，有自己的个性，会自主、有目的地生活。大自然让我们的生活变得如此丰富，对此我总是满怀感恩之情。”
Chesleigh admits that he didn’t have much of a green thumb back when he first started out gardening, but he eventually got the hang of it through trial and error. “It’s not really easy because each plant has its own unique characteristic, behavior, and needs to be met for it to survive and thrive. I have learned a lot of knowledge and wisdom from observing them grow and wither,” he adds.
Through art, he’s able to pay that inspiration back to Mother Nature. In March, his works Pagdidiwata sa Waling-waling (2020) and Pagdidiwata sa Bakyaan (2020) were showcased in a botany-themed illustration exhibit titled Natural Progression at Indonesia’s Gallery Stephanie. The works feature Vanda sanderiana and the Paphiopedilum urbanianum, two of the many endangered orchid species from the Philippines. “The inscription surrounding each plant is a ceremonial ritual to bind my feelings and intentions with nature,” he says.
通过艺术，他得以将自己获取的灵感回馈给大自然。今年 3 月，他的作品《Pagdidiwata sa Waling-waling》（2020）和《Pagdidiwata sa Bakyaan》（2020）在印尼 Gallery Stephanie 美术馆以植物学为主题的插图展览中展出，该展览主题为“Natural Progression”（自然进化）。这两幅作品描绘了桑德万代兰和兜兰两种濒临灭绝的菲律宾兰花品种。他说：“植物旁边的文字是一种仪式，旨在将我的感受和理念与大自然联系在一起。”
Aside from personal works, Nofiel also freelances as a full-time illustrator. Two years of freelance work changed not only how he navigates the art industry but has also given him new perspective on his core beliefs. “I am aware that there is no 100% ethical production and consumption in the capitalist system we currently operate in, but it is also worth mentioning to young creatives to be careful and sociopolitically aware of the clients and projects you associate yourself with,” he says. “You need to remember that you don’t only bear the responsibility of an artist to create, inspire, and tell stories, but also as a citizen to do honest, ethical work.”
The Philippines has been named as one of the most mega-biodiverse countries in the world. The country contains 70% of the world’s plant species. However, recent developments in infrastructure and globalization have damaged the environment. Deforestation activities since the 1970s have resulted in 70% of the country’s forests being wiped out. Several of the Philippines’ national species, including the Philippine Eagle, are now classified as critically endangered. The Philippines boasts rapid urbanization but at the cost of the environment. Nofiel says, “Nature has inspired us since the beginning of the Cenozoic Period… See now how capitalism and boxing ourselves inside anthropocentrism has ruined and disconnected us from it?” As the environment crumbles, so does humanity.
Going forward, he is inspired to continue exploring how his works can better raise awareness towards “biodiversity, folklores about our native species, conservation of nature” while sifting through “the personal feelings and memories that [he] associates with plants.” The meticulous attention that he dedicates to showing audiences the bigger picture of our increased alienation towards the natural world.
菲律宾是世界上生物多样性最丰富的国家之一。当地拥有世界上 70％的植物种类。但是，近年来为了发展基础设施和全球化，环境遭到了严重的破坏。自 1970 年代以来，森林砍伐活动导致该国 七成的森林被夷为平地。一些菲律宾国家物种（例如菲律宾鹰）现已被列为极度濒危物种。菲律宾快速的城市化进程是以环境为代价的。Alagadngsining 说：“自远古新生代以来，大自然就为我们人类提供源源不断的灵感启发……但是现在资本主义和人类中心主义却在摧毁大自然，使人类与自然脱节。”一旦环境崩坏，人类也势必荡然无存。
Beyond raising awareness by bridging scientific knowledge and art, Nofiel also finds inspiration from the Filipino cultural notion of kapwa, which roughly translates to ‘shared self’. “In the concept of the sacred connection of Pakikipagkapwa (relating the self with or to others), where we share relationality not only of man but also of nature, its occurrence shows how far the roots of kapwa extend into a shared life with all beings: plants, animals, mountains, the sky, and the living planet,” he says. “Our ancestors used to worship nature since the beginning, from the smallest plant to the biggest tree… I wanted to continue that tradition through my artistic expression with reverence and continue to bring awareness to the current situation.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he feels that these thematics have become more relevant than ever. “I want to create more works that I hope would inspire and educate others to value our environment, especially with the pandemic affecting everything,” he says.
在将植物科学知识与艺术相结合来提高人们的意识之外，Alagadngsining还会从菲律宾的“kapwa”（意为 “共享的自我”）文化中获得启发。“在 Pakikipagkapwa（即“将自我与他人联系在一起”）这个有关联系的神圣概念中，我们不仅与人产生联系，也与自然相互连通；这也表明，‘kapwa’ 的根源涵盖了与万物众生共享的联系：植物、动物、山脉、天空以及我们的生命星球。”他说，“自古以来，我们祖先都十分敬畏大自然，不论是微不起眼的小株植物，或是巨型的参天大树……我希望通过自己的艺术表达，来延续这一传统，继续提高人们的意识。”
As we look to make it through the pandemic, Nofiel’s art reminds us to reconsider our human-centered worldview, suggesting that reconnecting with nature is key if we truly wish to move forward. When asked about how we can become better environmentalists, he answers bluntly. “Everyone should care; everyone should be an environmentalist and be an advocate for conserving our biodiversity. The environmental crisis and issues we face affect every race, color, gender, age, religion, sexuality–it affects everything. We must always remember that to protect the environment is to protect humanity and to give value to biodiversity because [these actions] can give us an insurance policy: earth’s own safety net to safeguard our survival.”