Riel Hilario’s Recreates the Night Sky while Neil Arvin Javier Packs Them In

July 19, 2011

Riel Hilario, "From The Wreckage, A Silent Reverie", detail


Karl Jung defines projections as issues that our consciousness cannot face, concerns we may end up expressing via our dreams.  Riel Hilario has mined this explanation, along with a youthful obsession for astronomy, to create two sets of works for Astral Projections, currently on view at The Drawing Room.  The exhibit features his most recent series of sculpture, pieces that draw on his background as a wood carver from an Ilocano family of santo makers. This heritage continues to frame

Riel Hilario, "Traveller, Repose and Dream Among My Leaves"

his current work. The chiseled gessoed faces of his figures, and the severe, muted palette he adopts, hark back to traditional Filipino religious sculpture.

Riel Hilario, "The Virgin Setting On The Mountain"

Riel describes one group of works as portraits of the night sky.  As he explains, “I took specific constellations, part of the celestial sphere, and reinterpreted them as sculptural objects.”  The four-legged I have all the riddles to all your answers borrows from the constellation Leo, while Bearing The Burden of Light and A Cartesian Enigma: Joshu’s Dog look to Canis Major and Minor.  The female figures of The Crab Ascendant and The Virgin Setting On The Mountain follow the configurations of Cancer and Virgo.

Riel Hilario, "All Dreams of the Soul End Up in the Body"

Observing the stars has led Riel to dreams of the forest, the inspiration for the second set of works in the show.  One may describe the female figures in this group as tree maidens.  They either stand with their arms spread out, mimicking branches, or tall and sturdy, with leafy outgrowths.  We find familiar devices in this bunch, Riel’s signatures if you will.  For instance, the birds that populate the steel branches of From the Wreckage, A Silent Reverie sport human faces; he uses these hybrid creatures repeatedly, calling them guardians or aniwaas.  The monkey, symbol of the primal and the playful, appear in two of the works: They Are Often Most Profound When They Seem Most Crazy and Traveller, Repose And Dream Among My Leaves.

Riel Hilario, "Astral Projections", exhibit installaiton view

Riel Hilario, "They Are Often Most Profound When They Seem Most Crazy"


Meanwhile, the other side of the gallery hosts art of an entirely different nature, but not any less interesting.  Neil Arvin Javier, street artist, punk musician, and self-published comic

Neil Arvin Javier, "Ang Mamatay ng Dahil Sa 'Yo"

book creator mounts an exhibit of his collages.  I first saw Arvin’s work at the homecoming show of TUP Alumni in October 2010 at the CCP.  For that show, Implosion, he submitted a large-scale collage, and since then, I’ve always been curious to see more.

Neil Arvin Javier, "Ako...Ikaw...Kami...Sila...Tayo"

Arvin creates his psychedelic pieces from found paper products:  empty pizza boxes, stickers, magazines, cut out gallery catalogues.  He then finishes them off with drawings or painted flourishes, either done by hand or sprayed on graffiti style.  While he may work with less of Riel’s intellectual examination, his pieces are just as carefully considered.  I’ve always taken a shine to well-made collages, and I find Arvin’s work, tinged as they are with an urban Pinoy edginess, quite appealing.  Moreover, a conversation with him will reveal an artist genuinely committed to the lowbrow, skater lifestyle.

Neil Arvin Javier, "Hell...O Hayop, Pure Open Slot"

Neil Arvin Javier's collection of small collages

Astral Projections and Packed! run until 6 August 2011 at The Drawing Room, GF Metrostar Bldg, 1007 Metropolitan Avenue, Makati City. Phone (632) 897-6990 or visit http://www.drawingroomgallery.com

Thank you to Yorkie Gomez for the additional photos of Riel’s show.

Riel Hilario, "Call No More For Penguins (The Unicorn)"

Riel Hilario, "When Safely Ashore Take Not The Raft On My Back"

Riel Hilario, "From The Wreckage, A Silent Reverie", detail

Riel Hilario, "Bearing The Burden of Light"

Riel Hilario, "The Crab Ascendant"

Luis Lorenzana appreciating Arvin's work

Neil Arvin Javier, "Mahal Kita Ba't Di Ka Maniwala"

Neil Arvin Javier, "3 Mini Cheese Past"

Neil Arvin Javier, "Hate Will Tear Us Apart"



Riel Hilario and His Apostles

October 19, 2010

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

The 2010 Ateneo Art Awards

August 13, 2010

Just like everybody else in the audience, I eagerly awaited the announcement of winners for this year’s Ateneo Art Awards.  The

Shattering States: The Ateneo Art Awards 2010 Winners: Pow Martinez, Leslie de Chavez, and Mark Salvatus

Ateneo Art Gallery staff kept the final results under tight guard, even to us jurors.  Thankfully, they paced this year’s awards night programme so that none of us had long to wait.

Joel de Leon from the Ateneo Art Gallery, and Marina Cruz, 2008 winner, pose with short-listed artists for 2010: Leeroy New, Rodel Tapaya, Mark Salvatus, Joey Cobcobo, Riel Hilario, and Kiri Dalena

Since 2004, The Ateneo Art Awards has served as a barometer for the country’s contemporary arts landscape.  Past winners have gone beyond the critical recognition that the awards provide to, in most cases, huge commercial success.  Just think of how far Louie Cordero, Geraldine Javier, Ronald Ventura, and Marina Cruz have taken their art practices.  A cursory glance through the list of  even the non-winning finalists, the artists who have made it to the shortlist through the years,  reads like the art scene’s who’s who.

Lovely ladies: Bingbing Fernando, Gilda Cordero Fernando, and Boots Herrera

The 2010 Ateneo Art Awards winners are (in alphabetical order):  Leslie de Chavez for Buntong Hininga at SLab, Pow Martinez for 1 Billion Years at West Gallery, and Mark Salvatus for Secret Garden, Sungduan 5 Daloy ng Dunong at the National Musuem.  Winners receive eligibility to four residency grants abroad—in Sydney, Singapore, Bandung, and New York.  A win does not guarantee a residency, as the program directors reserve the right to choose which artist they give these to.  For this year, both the La Trobe University Grant in Sydney, and the Common Room Networks Foundation Residency in Bandung have been given to Mark.  The grantees from Artesan, in Singapore, and Art Omi, in upstate New York, have yet to be decided.

Cedie Vargas with Jean Marie and Michelline Syjuco

No doubt, everybody will have their two-cents worth on this year’s results.  As a member of the panel of jurors, let me just say that we went through long, even spirited, deliberations. Just to get our final list of 12 short-listed artists merited an extra, tie-breaking exercise after a whole day of discussion.  So as trite as this sounds, just to land on that list of 12 really means that the artist’s work stood out among so many.  I find that the list mirrors the excitingly-diverse attempts of our young contemporary artists.

Also, we must remember that these awards do not recognize the artists’ entire body  of work, but specific pieces and exhibits.  Thus, even the venues that host the shows in the shortlist receive special mention in all the Ateneo Art Gallery’s communications on these awards.

Artists Erwin Leano and Leslie de Chavez

The other finalists for 2010:  Frankie Callaghan, Joey Cobcobo, Kiri Dalena, Kawayan de Guia, Patricia Eustaquio, Riel Hilario, Leeroy New, Michelline Syjuco, and Rodel Tapaya.

The works of the 12 Short-listed artists for Shattering States: The Ateneo Art Awards 2010 may be viewed at the Grand Atrium, Shangri-La Plaza Mall from 6 to 16 August 2010.  The exhibit moves to the Ateneo Art Gallery from 26 August to 2 October 2010.  For more information contact the Ateneo Art Gallery at (632) 426-6488 or visit http://www.gallery.ateneo.edu.

Patricia Eustaquio, "Dear Sweet Filthy World", SLab

Photographs from Frankie Callaghan, "Dwelling", Silverlens

Fr. Rene Javellana, SJ from Ateneo's Fine Arts program, who also served as a juror

Frankie Callaghan, Rachel Rillo, and Patty Eustaquio

Joel Alonday of Art Informal

Joey Cobcobo, "7 Heads and Ten Horns", Avellana Art Gallery

A Kawayan de Guia jukebox from "Katas ng Pilipinas: God Knows Hudas Not Play", The Drawing Room

Kiri Dalena, "The Present Disorder Is The Order Of The Future", MO Space

Leeroy New with his piece from "Corpo Royale", The Drawing Room

Ateneo Art Gallery's Richie Lerma with wife, Karen, and son, Joaquin

Detail from Leslie de Chavez, "Buntong Hininga", SLab

Mark Salvatus, "Secret Garden, Sungduan 5, Daloy ng Dunong", The National Museum

Mark Salvatus' Secret Garden

Michelline Syjuco, "She Never Did Care About The Little Things" for "Draped In Silk", Yuchengco Museum

Pow Martinez, "1 Billion Years", West Gallery

Rajo Laurel

Detail from Riel Hilario's "Aniwaas", Art Informal

Detail of Rodel Tapaya's diorama to simulate installation of his piece, "Thrice Upon A Time, A Century of Story in the Art of the Philippines", now part of the Singapore Art Museum collection

A facsimile of Rodel's painting at the Singapore Art Museum

Yael Buencamino and IC Jaucian of the Ateneo Art Gallery

Sidd Perez of Manila Contemporary with Mark Salvatus

Riel Hilario’s Ilocano Soul

September 7, 2009

Riel Hilario, "A Piece of Bread:  St. Roch"

Riel Hilario, "A Piece of Bread: St. Roch"

Riel Hilario does his best work when he goes back to his roots.  Trained by santo carvers in his native Ilocos, he revisits this skill in his latest show, Aniwaas, at Art

View of exhibit installation

View of exhibit installation

Informal in Greenhills.  The Ilocano believes that a person possesses four souls.  Aniwaas is that which stays earthbound, not as a ghost but as an imprint that lingers on.  The Aniwaas may take the form of animals, tiny creatures like birds and butterflies.

Riel Hilario, "Even Monkeys Fall From Trees"

Riel Hilario, "Even Monkeys Fall From Trees"

In this show, Riel exhibits small birds with human faces. These images have recurred in his dreams, that of Santo Niños transformed into birds that retain the Holy Infant’s facial features.  Another device that occurs repeatedly in his work, that of disembodied hands, harks to an invisible object, an unseen other that interacts with the piece but remains beyond our visual plane.  He uses this in The Wanderer.  We also see this in The Reverie of Reason Produces…,his

Riel Hilario, "At Sea, One Weekend Journey"

Riel Hilario, "At Sea, One Weekend Journey"

attempt at Velasquez’s Santa Maria Infanta.  He injects a dose of humor in The Fire Girl and Better To Burn Out Than Fade Away, his depictions of children with their heads on fire, inspired by witnessing his daughter throwing a tantrum.

The most beautiful pieces, the ones that make us appreciate Riel’s skill the most, are the larger ones:  No Longer to Dream But to Be Dreamt Of,  Even Monkeys Fall Out of Trees, Flock Birds of the Same: Whispering St. Francis, and the invitation piece, Birds In My Ear, Spectre in My Shoulder.  At Sea,

Detail, "At Sea, One Weekend Journey"

Detail, "At Sea, One Weekend Journey"

One Weekend Journey serves as a receptacle for corals and other found objects from the serene Ilocano seaside at Sitio Remedios.

Riel Hilario, "The Fire Girl" and "Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away"

Riel Hilario, "The Fire Girl" and "Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away"

I first encountered Riel’s pieces at Pinto Gallery in Antipolo, shortly after Kakaduwa, his 2005 solo show at Boston GalleryKakaduwa refers to another of our souls, the doppelganger that the Ilocanos believe travels in our sleep.  Even then, I could sense his affinity to wood, his instinct for chiseling and bringing this medium to life via pieces that meld his background as a santo carver and contemporary sculptor.  I am so glad he’s back, coaxing wood into art.

Riel has left a  personal memento inside each one of these pieces.  This ritual allows the sculptor to give a part of himself to his work.  Thus, true to the show’s title, we can look at these wooden forms as Riel’s own Aniwaas.

Riel Hilario, "No Longer To Dream But To Be Dreamt Of"

Riel Hilario, "No Longer To Dream But To Be Dreamt Of"

Aniwaas by Riel Hilario runs from 3 to 20 September 2009 at Art Informal, 277  Connecticut St., Greenhills East, San Juan.  Phone (632)725-8518 or visit http:// www.artinformal.com

Riel Hilario, "Birds In My Ear, Spectre In My Shoulder"

Riel Hilario, "Birds In My Ear, Spectre In My Shoulder"

Another view of installation

Another view of installation