Memento

Gregory Halili
Silverlens, Singapore

Installation Views

About

    Silverlens Galleries is pleased to present Memento, an exhibition by Gregory Halili.

    Filipino-born artist, Gregory Halili, has spent 25 years in the United States before settling back in Manila to work in his studio within his homeland. Although he has spent most of his time in another country, antiquarian images and medieval themes have permeated his work which constitute a kind of longing not only to a distant past, but also to a reminisced heritage. This has paved way to delicate, small-scale artworks done in watercolor, gouache, and oil, applied to surfaces such as paper, vintage ivory, and mother-of-pearl shells that infuse the particulars of sacrosanctity found in the past and the immediacy of his once adopted home in New York. Encased in antique reliquaries, his miniature pieces have not only been celebrated for its intricate production, but also for the kind of intimacy it passes on—from the artist’s vision and own hands, to the viewer’s cautious and thoughtful glimpses and delicate hold of such refined objects.

    This is what scale does for Gregory Halili and less is more seems to be the dictum in terms of evoking passion. It is the same passion he has found after discovering 18th century illuminations and codices through his own forage at museums and galleries. Returning to the Philippines, he sets off to find for himself a new kind of relic. He goes beyond the walls of the museums and libraries and looks instead into nature and discovers an artifact that has also been molded by the vestiges of time, and has symbolized a foregone culture of the islands. The mother of pearl shell, which is mostly found along the tropical seas of the Philippines, is nature’s own codex of its own hidden mysteries.

    “I was simply astounded that these shells mirror and form the natural shape of the human skull,” Halili began to observe. And from thereon, a connection begins to take place—between our human existence and nature’s own passage, the cycle of life and death, the enduring presence of the past through symbols and remnants. And what lies in his hands are two mementos, skull and shell—the fragments of an existence. And what seemed to have echoed in Halili’s thoughts could be reminiscent of a famous epigraph in one of E.M. Forster’s novel, where the phrase ‘Only connect,’ was written.

    In his show entitled Memento, the connection takes place through carving, sculpting, and applying oil paint along the nacre’s inner shell to fashion out a skull. The result is as if nature has found its way via the artist’s hand to recombine their immortalities. It is uncanny, and at the same time inevitable, this union:

    “The show focuses on my interest and exploration about the notion of the life/death cycle. I use a material that is a vestige of nature...to manifest our connection with nature.”

    Where there is much to say about parallel elements in the universe, Halili has backed his observations with painstaking craft which only a few can claim mastery. He works upon stages, slowly carving the delicate luster of the shell’s interior, and then applying layer upon layer of thin oil paint until the skull takes full form. The terrain of each inner shell is unique, as well as its porcelaneous material, which requires each skull to be uniquely carved and hand-drawn as well, like fossils with its particular DNA.

    These iridescent, self-encased figures are supported by pedestals that the artist himself designed. Although the size of these sculptures are relatively bigger than most of Halili’s past works, they still display the kind of intimacy and sacredness as his objects and paintings that are enshrined in reliquaries. The shells, at the same time, possess the kind of shape that can be held in the palm of our hands. Some of our impressions may be even accompanied by memories of how we once plucked them out of the sand while walking along the seashore.

    And what about the skulls which are the shells of our humanity? Although not as endearing, they are the iridescent porcelains that riddle the dirt. In an astounding reversal of representation, Halili has turned the once grotesque symbol into an ornament as they are neatly embedded within the shell. Are they ominous figures or are they portraits of our union with nature? They could be both—life and death, beauty and decay—they become reminders of these fragile demarcations.

    These Mementos are not just the things to remind us, though. In Gregory Halili’s case, they also act as projections toward artistic possibilities. Coming a long way from previous works he has been known for, Halili has begun to explore different surfaces to apply his miniature paintings. The design of his mementos has given new shape to the idea of native craft, which when read closely, does not simply demonstrate a kind of ornamentation using natural resources, but convey the poetry found in nature, guising itself beneath a thorough kind of craftsmanship.

    Once during his stay in the United States, from where he has received his degree in Painting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Gregory Halili has worked on a series of miniature paintings depicting the cityscape and scenery of New York, his adopted city. It showed the architecture, the anonymous structures, and the mood of New York City in an almost unfamiliar and desolate set of images. This was the kind of city he has chosen to portray, the scenery that went past our common vistas. This was a foreboding that the artist was in search for more essential themes in art, or that there was something beyond the synthesized structure of the city. On a visit to Manila, he discovered the mother-of-pearl shells in outdoor and fish markets, and this prompted him to explore it as a new surface for his art. He then began to paint a series of ‘eyes,’ with such meticulous detail to reciprocate the notion of cherishing the ‘eyes of the beloved.’

    Passion, longing, love, life, and death. These are antiquated themes, yet these lie in the center for most of us. And Gregory Halili has been generous and candid enough to give them form through objects that we can fit in the palm of our hands. Like seeds, or precious stones, they are filled with mysteries. In Memento, which reveals his relatively larger pieces of sculpture, the theme becomes a little bit larger than life as well: death, memory, nature, and their never-ending cycle. These pieces invite us to come closer within our own nature and face these questions, the same way the artist had gone closer to home, to nature—to face what is essentially out there, and to search for what essentially binds us.

    Gregory Halili (b. 1975, Manila PH) received his B.F.A. from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, U.S.A. After 25 years of living in the U.S. he has returned to Manila to resettle and build a new studio. His work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and shows, including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; The Hammond Museum and Sculpture Garden in Salem, New York; Ayala Museum in Makati City; Jorge B. Vargas Museum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City; West Gallery in Quezon City; Silverlens Gallery in Makati City, and; Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York City.

Silverlens Galleries is pleased to present Memento, an exhibition by Gregory Halili.

Filipino-born artist, Gregory Halili, has spent 25 years in the United States before settling back in Manila to work in his studio within his homeland. Although he has spent most of his time in another country, antiquarian images and medieval themes have permeated his work which constitute a kind of longing not only to a distant past, but also to a reminisced heritage. This has paved way to delicate, small-scale artworks done in watercolor, gouache, and oil, applied to surfaces such as paper, vintage ivory, and mother-of-pearl shells that infuse the particulars of sacrosanctity found in the past and the immediacy of his once adopted home in New York. Encased in antique reliquaries, his miniature pieces have not only been celebrated for its intricate production, but also for the kind of intimacy it passes on—from the artist’s vision and own hands, to the viewer’s cautious and thoughtful glimpses and delicate hold of such refined objects.

This is what scale does for Gregory Halili and less is more seems to be the dictum in terms of evoking passion. It is the same passion he has found after discovering 18th century illuminations and codices through his own forage at museums and galleries. Returning to the Philippines, he sets off to find for himself a new kind of relic. He goes beyond the walls of the museums and libraries and looks instead into nature and discovers an artifact that has also been molded by the vestiges of time, and has symbolized a foregone culture of the islands. The mother of pearl shell, which is mostly found along the tropical seas of the Philippines, is nature’s own codex of its own hidden mysteries.

“I was simply astounded that these shells mirror and form the natural shape of the human skull,” Halili began to observe. And from thereon, a connection begins to take place—between our human existence and nature’s own passage, the cycle of life and death, the enduring presence of the past through symbols and remnants. And what lies in his hands are two mementos, skull and shell—the fragments of an existence. And what seemed to have echoed in Halili’s thoughts could be reminiscent of a famous epigraph in one of E.M. Forster’s novel, where the phrase ‘Only connect,’ was written.

In his show entitled Memento, the connection takes place through carving, sculpting, and applying oil paint along the nacre’s inner shell to fashion out a skull. The result is as if nature has found its way via the artist’s hand to recombine their immortalities. It is uncanny, and at the same time inevitable, this union:

“The show focuses on my interest and exploration about the notion of the life/death cycle. I use a material that is a vestige of nature...to manifest our connection with nature.”

Where there is much to say about parallel elements in the universe, Halili has backed his observations with painstaking craft which only a few can claim mastery. He works upon stages, slowly carving the delicate luster of the shell’s interior, and then applying layer upon layer of thin oil paint until the skull takes full form. The terrain of each inner shell is unique, as well as its porcelaneous material, which requires each skull to be uniquely carved and hand-drawn as well, like fossils with its particular DNA.

These iridescent, self-encased figures are supported by pedestals that the artist himself designed. Although the size of these sculptures are relatively bigger than most of Halili’s past works, they still display the kind of intimacy and sacredness as his objects and paintings that are enshrined in reliquaries. The shells, at the same time, possess the kind of shape that can be held in the palm of our hands. Some of our impressions may be even accompanied by memories of how we once plucked them out of the sand while walking along the seashore.

And what about the skulls which are the shells of our humanity? Although not as endearing, they are the iridescent porcelains that riddle the dirt. In an astounding reversal of representation, Halili has turned the once grotesque symbol into an ornament as they are neatly embedded within the shell. Are they ominous figures or are they portraits of our union with nature? They could be both—life and death, beauty and decay—they become reminders of these fragile demarcations.

These Mementos are not just the things to remind us, though. In Gregory Halili’s case, they also act as projections toward artistic possibilities. Coming a long way from previous works he has been known for, Halili has begun to explore different surfaces to apply his miniature paintings. The design of his mementos has given new shape to the idea of native craft, which when read closely, does not simply demonstrate a kind of ornamentation using natural resources, but convey the poetry found in nature, guising itself beneath a thorough kind of craftsmanship.

Once during his stay in the United States, from where he has received his degree in Painting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Gregory Halili has worked on a series of miniature paintings depicting the cityscape and scenery of New York, his adopted city. It showed the architecture, the anonymous structures, and the mood of New York City in an almost unfamiliar and desolate set of images. This was the kind of city he has chosen to portray, the scenery that went past our common vistas. This was a foreboding that the artist was in search for more essential themes in art, or that there was something beyond the synthesized structure of the city. On a visit to Manila, he discovered the mother-of-pearl shells in outdoor and fish markets, and this prompted him to explore it as a new surface for his art. He then began to paint a series of ‘eyes,’ with such meticulous detail to reciprocate the notion of cherishing the ‘eyes of the beloved.’

Passion, longing, love, life, and death. These are antiquated themes, yet these lie in the center for most of us. And Gregory Halili has been generous and candid enough to give them form through objects that we can fit in the palm of our hands. Like seeds, or precious stones, they are filled with mysteries. In Memento, which reveals his relatively larger pieces of sculpture, the theme becomes a little bit larger than life as well: death, memory, nature, and their never-ending cycle. These pieces invite us to come closer within our own nature and face these questions, the same way the artist had gone closer to home, to nature—to face what is essentially out there, and to search for what essentially binds us.

Gregory Halili (b. 1975, Manila PH) received his B.F.A. from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, U.S.A. After 25 years of living in the U.S. he has returned to Manila to resettle and build a new studio. His work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and shows, including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; The Hammond Museum and Sculpture Garden in Salem, New York; Ayala Museum in Makati City; Jorge B. Vargas Museum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City; West Gallery in Quezon City; Silverlens Gallery in Makati City, and; Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York City.

Works

Gregory Halili
Memento Mori IV
2014
2802
2
oil on mother of pearl
8.86h x 9.25w in • 22.50h x 23.50w cm
1
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PHP
0
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Gregory Halili
Memento Mori V
2014
2803
2
oil on mother of pearl
8.46h x 8.46w in • 21.50h x 21.50w cm
1
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0
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Gregory Halili
Memento Mori X
2014
2804
2
oil on mother of pearl
8.27h x 8.66w in • 21h x 22w cm
1
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0
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Gregory Halili
Memento Mori XI
2014
2805
2
oil on mother of pearl
8.27h x 8.27w in • 21h x 21w cm
1
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0
Details
Gregory Halili
Memento Mori XII
2014
2806
2
oil on mother of pearl
8.86h x 8.66w in • 22.50h x 22w cm
1
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PHP
0
Details
Gregory Halili
Memento Mori XIII
2014
2807
2
oil on mother of pearl
10.04h x 9.25w in • 25.50h x 23.50w cm
1
0.00
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0
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Gregory Halili
Memento Mori XIV
2014
2808
2
oil on mother of pearl
9.65h x 8.86w in • 24.50h x 22.50w cm
1
0.00
PHP
0
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Gregory Halili
Memento Mori XV
2014
2809
2
oil on mother of pearl
10.04h x 9.45w in • 25.50h x 24w cm
-1
0.00
PHP
0
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Gregory Halili
Memento Mori XVI
2014
2810
2
oil on mother of pearl
9.15h x 8.66w in • 23.25h x 22w cm
1
0.00
PHP
0
Details
Gregory Halili
Memento Mori XVII
2014
2811
2
oil on mother of pearl
8.5 x 8.75 in • 21.59 x 22.23 cm
1
0.00
PHP
0
Details

Artist Page

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