Philippine Daily Inquirer: March 22, 2004
By Augusto Villalon
Outdoor Sculpture for the Soul
ONE of the rare expositions of public art in Manila is now at the Greenbelt 3 garden and Glorietta 4 park at Ayala Center. Large-scale work by multi-awarded sculptor Impy Pilapil, conceptualized and curated by the artist herself, is on view until April 5.
So few urban amenities offer de-stressing alternatives for a Manileño to recharge his soul and mind. Recent projects, the new Liwasang Bonifacio Park, gentrification of the seaside promenade of Roxas Boulevard and pedestrianization of Rizal Avenue are initial attempts that provide escape valves but not enough to allow comfortable living in the city.
Public art is an overlooked urban amenity and awfully lacking in all Philippine cities. The Pilapil exhibit underscores the magnitude of that lack, illustrating that there is indeed a place for public art in our lives.
The artist's concept is to create an environment where everyone would be free to "mingle, touch, feel, reflect with, meditate with, or find some kind of soothing feelings with the work." She reaches out to her viewers, invites them to establish a relationship, no matter how fleeting, with her work.
Within public reach
The exhibit is completely experiential. The large sculptures stand on ground level. Others hang from trees. This is not the usual "look-only" exhibit with art pieces secured and kept out of public reach.
On the contrary, the series of sculptures is completely accessible to the public. The pieces invite visitors to walk around them, take a close look, touch and experience Pilapil's art.
The exhibit brings art to the people. Unlike in the traditional museum setting where art is detached from the viewer, Pilapil aims "to break the barriers that ordinary people feel exist when it comes to art." Breaking away from the elitist misconception of art, she invites the public to mingle and interact with her pieces.
The visual and tactile experience that her public sculpture offers is an opportunity for a viewer to "pause, reach out, and have time for oneself," Pilapil says. "It is my hope that each viewer will experience some kind of individual silence and inner peace."
Ocean of forms
The sculptures elicit peace. Elegantly conceived and meticulously executed in lustrous combinations of stone, marble, glass and stainless steel, each piece juxtaposes textures and contrasts materials that flow into an ocean of forms recalling the movement of water.
Inspired by the ocean, Pilapil's liquid shapes are undulating, upward-oriented forms in mirror-finished stainless steel that splash, grounded by sinuous multi-textured marble bases.
Her sculptures are ephemeral. Polished marble, glass and stainless steel capture the graceful motion of water, transmitting movement with strong visual clarity.
Hanging at different levels from tree branches, flat, translucent fiberglass bubbles delicately rise from the seascape of sculptural forms appearing to connect water with the atmosphere above it. Everything works well together.
"As water has been the inherent subject of my work, I think of the ocean as one of God's life-giving gifts, cradling the universe in its silent and gentle waves, all its sparkling bubbles blowing upwards and baring its soul to the world-as if showing the path toward heaven," says the artist when asked about her inspiration.
In some sculptures, sleek marble shafts hold bubbles of polished stainless steel spheres at eye level. The shiny spheres reflect the surroundings into kaleidoscopic infinity, merging ground with sky, sky with skyscrapers. Urban greenery visually connects to the clouds, and reflections of people merge with the urban environment.
Pilapil's spheres mirror another dimension in the familiar Makati urbanscape. They insinuate an ephemeral, inner landscape that lives within the polish of each sphere, establishing an introspective mood that leads the soul on a journey to its inner self.
The spaces and spheres are guides leading to a glimpse of universal infinity.
The dimension of inner peace that the sculptures invoke is long absent from our urban amenities. Calm is a quality that Manileños have learned to live without.
The exhibit shows the extent that public art enriches urban life. It shows that most types of art really are meant to be experienced by people and not kept out of reach in museums or locked away in private collections.
It further shows that good public art benefits city life. Imagine all Philippine cities, each enriched by public art so that not only does the quality of life improve, each city is imbued with a strong sense of identity and place.