There is a transcendental quality to the recent and vibrant creations of artist Impy Pilapil.
Collectively, they evoke glimpses into the artist’s self-discovery and personal Odyssey, a Silk Road voyage from abstract serigraphs to dazzling, three-dimensional sculptures in glass and stone.
What they all do have in common is the Taoist fusion of the elements: sky, water, wind and oceanic solitude. Their cumulative thrust is the secret of harmony and the core principle of Oriental philosophy which prescribes that humans should live as a part of and certainly not apart from the influences and environs of nature.
Pilapil’s glass and stone works of recent months hint at the mystical and otherworldly. They bear such enigmatic titles like PREMA (spiritual love), Into the Hereafter, Quest and Nirvana, to name but a few. Thanks to the smoothness of one and the ruggedness of the other, these materials complement each other as sea and shore. Light, striking through the glass sculptures and glittering along the edges, creates a subtly prismatic aura that inspires contemplation and lyric states of feeling.
Since the start of the 90s, glass has become the principal medium of Pilapil’s creative output. Raw blocks of glass called “cullets”, green and aqua in color, are essentially excess glass that go into a pot from an industrial furnace when sheet glass is manufactured. These cullets are carved by hand using chisel, diamond blades or specially crafted tools and polished with the use of wood, cowhide or chemicals.
The marble stones are a kind of limestone that comes in shades of grey, white, or black with characteristic colored streaks which the artist claims are unpredictable as shaping is being done.
The most striking motif of Pilapil’s works is water in all its manifestations; limpid, surging, splashing or gushing – a soothing escape from tension and calculated to induce a state of equanimity. One of the most outstanding of these pieces is Summer Sparkle, a wall-work in silkscreen, etching and paint on five variously shaped glass panels. This recalls the artist’s magical silkscreens of the early 80s with its celebratory colors and life sustaining images of organic growth and rhythmic movement.
Lately, her works revolve around her ocean series. They have gained relevance and significance in the context of the worldwide concern over pollution and endangered marine life. A real sparkler is Ocean Sparkle, a glass sheet with curvilinear edges etched with undulating lines and encrusted with glass “bubbles” representing foamy waves. At its base is a rough-hewn hunk of serpentine stone whose solidity and opacity represent what is stable about earth in contrast to the transparency and frosted ripples on the glass representing water.
To create her vision of the sea, Pilapil etched fluid lines on the green-tinted glass surface, and attached glass objects of varying sizes, from tiny marbles to multifaceted blocks as large as paperweights. By doing so, she was able to beautifully suggest water in motion, cool depths vibrating with light, wind, marine life, as well as spray and foam bubbling in the sun. It was also a statement on the need to exalt the quiet harmony of the earth, water and air around us, to conserve the biosphere and spare it from being fouled up by the mindless release of toxic wastes in the name of material progress.
The underlying message is hard to escape. The work nudges viewers into the realization that their only hope for survival is to take a leaf from nature where disparate elements come to terms to be able to co-exist in harmony.
In the garden of her home stands a seven foot monolith, a minimalist sculpture entitled Soul. Elegant in its utter simplicity and painted in titanium white, it looks like an upright surfboard glistening in the sun. In the words of art critic, Emmanuel Torres of the Ateneo de Manila University, “this outdoor sculpture serves as an introduction to Pilapil’s art. It seems as frail as a paper kite, but firm as the earth on which it is anchored. It symbolizes optimism and courage as it gleams in the tropical sun or stands fast in a raging typhoon.”
Pilapil is a versatile artist who is likewise an innovative adventurer not content to rest on her laurels. During the early stages of her career, she developed a technique of cutting her silk screen prints with a sharp blade to create clean, sleek and rounded folds simulating waves. Her idea was to liberate the print from the flatness of paper and to activate its surface, thus transforming the artwork into a form of paper relief sculpture. It was no surprise since, as a grade school pupil, she had long been fascinated by Origami, the Japanese art-form of paper folding.
The next stage after this was to shift from serigraphy to metal, then, to an altogether different medium: A harder, transparent surface such as glass to augment the qualities of light and air. Pilapil admits to being challenged by the strength of the material which she alters and softens with various curvilinear forms and shapes unique to her style. This includes bending the entire glass sheet into a long arc or serrating and creating curved notches at certain points along the edges, or reshaping the contour of the panels altogether into a series of undulations to resemble a splash of water. Such curves, in her view, tend to soften the hard straight edges of sheet glass into shimmering, graceful ripples.
The artist, who confesses to being deeply attracted to and moved by the concerns of the soul, is also an avid supporter of environmental and ecological causes.
Pilapil’s works will be on view in Hong Kong from November 17 to 27 to mark the fourth anniversary of SEIBU at Pacific Place, Queensway Road.
They promise to be a visual feast for the heart and soul.