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”.
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
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.
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.
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