Friday, November 27, 2015

The great American orator William Jennings Bryan said that destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter choice — a thing that is waiting to be achieved. Aia Halili is a good example of this idea. An interior designer and devout mother who is dedicated to her parish’s causes, Halili is a reluctant artist. Reluctant because she admits to having wanted to be an architect. A family friend convinced her father that architecture was a man’s occupation, and he consequently leaned on the young kolehiyala from Maryknoll (now Miriam College) to try giving fine arts a shot. Halili subsequently enrolled at the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines, where her dean was National Artist Jose Joya, and among her teachers was National Artist Napoleon Abueva. She majored in painting, while simultaneously taking classes at the Philippine School of Interior Design.

From there, Halili forged a successful career as an interior designer, as well as making religious items for the benefit of her parish. Every so often, she would also exhibit paintings of Marian portraits. But the lure of designing tactile, three-dimensional artworks was too great, and the artist found a fantastic compromise in sculpture. Recalling the basics from her days in UP, she taught herself the advanced techniques of molding and casting, and eventually found herself as one of the select few sculptors who work with cast metals, such as steel, bronze, and gun metal. It is a laborious, highly-nuanced technique that requires patience and skill — but Halili found that the elements of architecture that appealed to her — such as the planning, preparation, and mind for volume — are essential virtues in sculpture.

The works she has since made — reflecting the values she places in Filipino traditions, family, and home — will be on display in her one-man exhibition at Galleria Nicolas in Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City. Opening on Monday, November 23, 2015, the exhibit is titled “Serendipity,” which is an appropriate title as Halili believes it was fate that led her to sculpture.

The nature of Halili’s work is apparent in even the most cursory of examinations. Metal casting is usually only done for large monuments, and Halili’s innovation was to scale the process down to something that can fit in a home or office. Since the works are made of metals, they have a heavy and solid feeling. The process is also excruciatingly detailed, and requires a sculptor with a highly refined skill and sense of weight and volume.

Halili first crafts the image in a material such as clay, before she makes a foundry mold where metal is poured in. To contrast the inorganic feel, Halili also incorporates organic elements such as antique wood to balance her works out — oftentimes, in very creative ways. This is evident in a works such as “Juan Sipag’s Harvest,” where the tree is represented as a bisected wooden branch — of which a lazy carabao sleeps underneath the shade.

A sensitive artist, who nonetheless has complete mastery of the advanced techniques needed to create detailed, thought-provoking images of family and nature, Halili’s solo exhibit heralds the arrival of a sculptor to watch out for. Her oeuvre is a refreshing approach on sculpture, breathing new life into what was becoming a staid art form dominated by works of sheet metal. What more, her works are the kind that will appeal of collectors looking to add a certain Filipino je ne sais quoi to their collection.

For Aia Halili however, this exhibition means validation for her decision to seize her destiny as one of the country’s premier sculptors.

The exhibition will run until December 7, 2015.

Galleria Nicolas is located at the 3rd Floor Art Space of Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City.

For more information, please call (632) 625-0273 or email

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