Riel Hilario and His Apostles

Riel Hilario, "Gazing into the horizon while it gazes back at you", carved and polychromed friutwood, 70x24x20 cm

When sculptor Riel Hilario sits before a chunk of wood, he has no preconceived forms in his head.  Like a shaman, he lets the wood guide him, allowing it to tell him what to do.  On occasion, he even lets his dreams dictate the directions of his hands. What he consciously aspires for is the  creation of contemporary sculpture using the woodcarving traditions he grew up with.  In this exhibit of new works at The Drawing Room, Riel taps into his Ilocano heritage to once again bring us his rebultos, art that is in the round, derived “from the block”.

Riel Hilario, "Looking into the mirror not seeing an apostle", carved and polychromed fruitwood, 59.5x33x53 cm.

The exhibit’s title, if an apostle looks in no monkey can look out, comes from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s aphorism: “A book is a mirror:  when a monkey looks in, no apostle can look out”.   Riel uses the word apostle to mean saint .  He finishes his ten female forms as he would have reproduced santos, replicas of wooden saint figurines that decorate church altars, a process he learned while exposed to the antique trade.  Unlike the work he did for his 2009 show Aniwaas (which was in the 2010 Ateneo Art Awards short list), he hardly embellishes his figures here.  Harking back to the Ilocano aesthetic of basic lines, he chooses instead to emphasize the

Riel Hilario, "Flickering candle into a storm lamp", carved and polychromed fruitwood, 71x33x28 cm.

facial features of his women, and work with dark brown, red, and chalk white stains.  For most of the female figures, he reuses his floating hand, a signature device he adopts to refer to the unseen companion, an “other” that reacts to the piece just as we viewers do.

Riel Hilario, "The sum of all flight", carved and polychromed fruitwood, 47x74x23 cm.

Looking into the mirror not seeing an apostle is what Riel calls the exhibit’s pivotal piece, one that responds directly to the show’s title.  Riel has sculpted a female monkey gazing into a hand held mirror, the show’s only non-human subject.  Through this piece, Riel reexamines the age-old argument of the origin of the species, one that pits the biblical explanation of man’s creation (presumably the side of the santos) against the Darwinian proposition that humans descend from apes.

Riel Hilario, "A mermaid between sea and sky", carved and polychromed fruitwood, 70x24x25cm

If an apostle looks in no monkey can look out runs from 16 October to 7 November 2010 at The Drawing Room Contemporary Art, 1007 Metropolitan Ave., MetrostarBldg., Makati City.  Phone (632) 897-7877 or visit http://www.drawingroomgallery.com

Riel Hilario, "The birds that spoke were already dwelling in her", carved and polychromed fruitwood, 71x25x14 cm

Riel Hilario, "The wind in the trees", carved and polychromed fruitwood, 71x32x20cm.

Riel Hilario, "Where the tree of knowledge is there also paradise", carved and polychromed fruitwood, 66x21.5x16 cm


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