Brushstrokes of change

A visionary artist on a bicycle journey down EDSA stumbled upon an unexpected sight: two lonely teddy bears nestled amidst the chaotic urban sprawl. Intrigued, he delved deeper and discovered a world beyond the teddy bears — an array of children navigating the bustling streets.

This serendipitous encounter ignited a spark of inspiration, propelling the artist into a transformative journey. Harnessing the city’s polluted air as an unlikely medium, he meticulously extracted pollutants, transmuting them into vivid pigments.

With this novel palette in hand, he embarked on an artistic odyssey, painting familiar Metro Manila scenes, thereby giving breath to an entire exhibition that vividly captured the essence of a metropolis reborn from its own environmental challenges — “The Polluted Palette.”

Renowned architect and artist, John Carlo (JC) Vargas, unveils his latest exhibition, titled “The Polluted Palette, at the Menarco Vertical Museum in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

JC shared his unique approach to DAILY TRIBUNE, revealing the “use of air pollutants, such as indoor and outdoor dust, along with soot from vehicles,” to craft these powerful artworks.

He deliberately maintained a “raw” color scheme to convey emotions.

This one-man show, which consists of 37 paintings, serves as a sobering reminder of the negative consequences that poisonous air pollution has on the lives of Metro Manila street children.

JC creates vibrant, thought-provoking artwork that highlights the pressing problem of air pollution in the Philippines by using colors made from pollutants.

Beyond just being artistic, JC’s effort is a call to action, with a portion of his painting sales go to charities like the Childhope Philippines Foundation Inc., which works to better the lives of street children. Its mission is to promote the wellbeing of street children by providing them with possibilities for holistic development and alternative educational experiences.


JC encapsulates the purpose of the exhibition with the term “MATAYA-TAYA,” emphasizing its role in raising awareness and effecting positive change within the community.

He believes in art’s power to provoke thought, inspire change and unite people. “The Polluted Palette” exemplifies these beliefs by spotlighting Manila’s air pollution issue and the often-overlooked lives of street children who call the city streets their home.