What is to come… that is one thing that cannot be sculpted.
Artist Impy Pilapil was all set to open her latest show in March of 2020 at Conrad Manila. In an interview before opening day, she explained the idea behind it: “My personal quest has always been to find true meaning and purpose through art. Whether the path begins from within the pages of a fantasy novel or the wonders of the natural and higher worlds, wherever it may lead, I will always find traces.”
The “Traces of Infinity” pieces were inspired by the impressions left on the surfaces of stone-cutting mills. Impy had panels repurposed as accents and textures for relief sculptures she made in the past, and she observed how their unique formations seem to tell stories. “These hypothetical narratives or musings bring back many memories I have of films and documentaries on Lost Civilizations or extra-terrestrial landscapes, fantastic worlds in my mind’s eye. Whether these are all real memories or something my imagination has cooked up, it all fell into place as the works neared completion.”
But, alas, the Fates dealt the world with something as foreboding as a Ten of Swords from a deck of Tarot.
“We heard the murmurings as early as January, but we stood optimistic, hoping it wouldn’t be so bad,” Impy now recalls the days leading up to the opening of her 2020 exhibition. “But when the news came from the venue itself, I would be grossly underplaying it (by characterizing this) as ‘disheartening.’ Everything was beyond anyone’s control and accepting the postponement was the best that could be done.”
She did not lose hope, though. Both her camp and the Conrad team were on the same page: the suite of sculptures must be shown at some point. Not just yet. First, there was the pandemic scare to be weathered, lockdowns to be endured, and an uncertain life to be lived through.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel any fear, but something kept me positive throughout this whole ordeal. We already just kept to ourselves even before the lockdowns, so isolation was never a real issue — it seemed bleak, but I had no doubts people would bounce back.” Impy relied on family and friends. And she carried on as she always does: sculpted, produced, created. Even when not working, she “worked.”
“The way I relax — the way that I distract myself — always has something to do with making things. Like putting together little toys for our cats, small projects around the house and such. In a way, the quiet that passed as we waited for the lockdowns to be lifted was like the proverbial silver lining for me. But when the city started stirring back to life, there was a bit of relief knowing normalcy had returned.”
And here we are like hedgehogs woken up from hibernation, trying to pick up where we left off. Bankers bank. Salesmen sell. Artists mesmerize.
Two years later, “Traces of Infinity” opened finally last Oct. 26 at Gallery C, third level of Conrad Manila. As in the case of everything infinite and limitless, absolutely nothing changed in regard to the pieces — from the day of conception and throughout the years in stasis.
“The themes surrounding ‘Traces of Infinity’ have been ideas I have tried expressing many years before,” explains Impy. “And it was only in the completion of this current collection that they found their foothold.”
The artist is candid and forthright when it comes to issues: we may have escaped the pandemic by the skin of our teeth, but there is an epidemic of misinformation, revisionism and untruths that is wildly spreading.
“But even before the existence of the internet, human civilizations have been shaped by propaganda and convenient half-truths in a rather one-sided manner,” she points out. “At least now, as the delivery method for misinformation thrives in this near-unstoppable state, so too does the ability for us to research and refute what ills are hurled at us. There is always a solution: I still believe that humans are inherently good and it is this internal searching for values and resistance to evil that will prevail in time. We may not see it in our lifetimes as society is now suffocating from many unnecessary distractions and misplaced ideologies, but it will correct itself from self-destruction. At least, that is what I hope.”
Artists, she stresses, are under no obligation to right the ills of society, which she considers a limiting dilemma. “But as human beings, we should all be mindful of our duties to each other and to our future as a species. We should all do our part.”
Even if words are unsaid, the artworks are there to spark sentiments, to start quiet introspection or animated dialogue, to birth whatever it is the world lacks.
“We take for granted many things that we designate as distraction or entertainment — before we were all forced to stay within the confines of our homes. And then suddenly they become something of a necessity. Art in any shape or form is made to make people happy.”
She amplifies how even artworks that depict the hardships of society bring comfort in the form of empathy and relatability. “And when challenges to our existence (constitute) the prevailing norm, then art becomes a reflection of it — to distract us or to inspire us to forge a stronger resolve or to reach higher planes of existence.”
What Impy Pilapil is saying is that each stroke of a brush, each quiver of a chisel becomes an infinite gesture, those beautifully broken hands forever toiling for transcendence.
The 21st installation of the “Of Art and Wine” exhibit features Impy Pilapil’s personal collection of 16 mixed media works, sculptures made of armor wood, steel, metal, stone and marble done between 1994 to 2020. These showcase her multimedia mastery, creative artistic approaches, and compelling thematic messages. It is open to the public until Jan. 7, 2023. For inquiries on the artworks, call +6328833-9999 or email [email protected].
Conrad Manila is at Seaside Blvd. Coral Way, Pasay City.