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VOL.3 N0. 89
WED FEBRUARY 6, 2008
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    Ramon Orlina and his Glass
    Breaking the Metaphors
     
    By Tito Genova Valiente
    titovaliente@yahoo.com
     

    RAMON ORLINA and his glass sculptures came into the scene through the emerald aspect of his material. We can recall those pieces that were not unlike an extension of the properties of the jewel, precious and regal. The pieces were not big but there was an expansive quality about the work, as if someone had discovered a way into the material, opened it up and raised it against the light for everyone to inspect, view and meditate on.

    His early critic, the preeminent art historian Leonidas V. Benesa, wrote about the work of “this original talent” and how “…incredibly heavy and practically unbreakable, the works look like emerald forms in a fantasyland of crystal and ice.”

    LUMBA-LUMBA

     

    We recall those words as we look at his two pieces: Emerald Forest II and Emerald Vision V. The first one is a 28 x 81 x 25 cm art piece that is the form of crystal polyptych. It is a dense forest, a tribute to the imagination of the artist and a pleasant sight for the ecology advocate to feast on. In Orlina’s forest there is only the light to penetrate the jungle sheltering our legacy of mystery and survival.

    Emerald Vision plays magic and tricks with our vision. Is this a forest or underwater vegetation? Can this be fossilized leaves and trees buried in crags? There are bubble-like shapes telling us we are somewhere else. The green light empties our mind, so that at the end we have nothing but this vision of green.

    The loss of architecture is the gain of sculpture. Orlina is an architect, having finished a degree in that field from University of Santo Tomas. His first job could have been with Republic Glass, now Asahi Glass. Then, he was doing some paintings on glass. The company had given him a pleasant offer that would have taken him abroad and provided him with more training in the technology and industry of glass. But Orlina was not really interested in working in a company on glass, as he was keen about working with glass itself.

    He was able to secure an arrangement with Republic Glass that enabled him to have access to residual cullets, materials gathered when the furnaces were cleaned. In a sense, our artist started working with recycled materials.

    TREASURE TROVE

     

    The results were varied, introducing to us a fresh way of looking at and shaping the materials.

    Some of his undertakings did not remain unnoticed. In the prestigious Toyamura International Biennale in Hokkaido, Japan, Orlina remembers now how his work was lauded not only by the critics but by the community itself. Touring the site, he came upon a park filled with statuaries and carvings. The town itself was a museum of sculptures and his work Silvery Moon cast a magic upon the population used to seeing works of art and confident about their own aesthetics and standards.

    Alice Guillermo, the art columnist of the BusinessMirror, in her article for Quintessence, the catalog for Orlina’s retrospective in Ayala Museum, believes that some of Orlina’s finest shapes were those representing birds in flight or soaring. The artist has mastered movement out of his materials.

    Movement in his works is not limited to the natural movement of living things. It is the potency of his art that even when depicting a physically inert phenomenon or idea like the number 8, Orlina imbues the figure with the continuous sumi-e-like dynamics of an ink-stroke. In his version, the number has become Double-Eight, an affecting sequence in a popular belief system. You just don’t watch this piece, you follow its trail and allow yourself to wander into its Henry Mooreish “holes.” I do not call them holes; I call them decorative spaces or gaps, similar to those found in African anthropomorphic figures, which evidently influenced also Henry Moore.

    Orlina also has this classic character in Japanese arts, that which is called mono-no-aware. The principle states that things are beautiful because they do not last.  The Fountain of Hope is an example of this play with the ephemeral. It is 160 x 37 x 35 carved glass fountain set up on a stainless steel basin. Hope springs eternal but in this piece, the fountain is threatened by its own infinity. Thus, we hope… because while it may not be there always, it can be summoned, or its appearance triggered by the absence of hope.

    I like the artist. Other artists take you on a journey. With Orlina, you look at his piece and you are granted a return, very much like what Neruda said: When I returned from so many journeys/I stayed suspended and green/between sun and geography. In glass, Orlina allows us to fly between the light that moves us and the earth that assures us we can be still. Even as a sculptor he reminds us he is still the architect summoning us to look inside the pieces the way we do with model houses, and there find both the reflection and the destination of light.

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