The instinctive forms, external wonders of Impy Pilapil’s wearable art
ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - August 13, 2014 - 12:00am

Impy Pilapil creates sculptures with poetic shapes and makes lyrical use of space.

Well, that is a cryptic way of starting an article about one of the foremost sculptors in the country today, but the woman’s work is all about mystery, the non-distinction between form and function, the attempt to confront that “ocean wave constantly spinning forms” inside her head.

And the ocean wave has taken her everywhere. Now this, her present project: a jewelry exhibition presented by jewelry designer Hans Brumann featuring Impy and National Artist for Visual Arts Arturo Luz. The exhibition titled “Elegance & Grace” opens tomorrow, 6 p.m. at Makati Shangri-La Hotel.

“When I told (Hans) that my designs must project water, he incorporated Lucite with 24 karat gold and diamonds,” Impy explains.

This is the fourth time that she is part of an exhibition with Brumann and Luz.  It was in 1995 when Brumann invited Impy to do a show with him, which was premised on the sculptor’s current project.

Impy says, “In these exhibits (with Hans and Arturo), each individual is given absolute freedom to create what he or she wants. Overall, the thrust would be the crossover of visual art into something wearable yet equally appreciated.”

Coming from a visual arts background, Impy was faced with the ergonomic consideration: these pieces must not only be independent artworks, but be realistically wearable and comfortable.

“Hans Brumann has an exceptional eye for artistic possibilities. He sees more than the ordinary and this is how these jewelry exhibitions started and evolved. The challenge is always the implementation. However, Hans is known to do things out of the ordinary and has a flair for innovating to help ideas develop.”

Impy’s pieces were based on her sketchbooks of the past three years. Production started early last year. The thrust is to present pieces of jewelry that are fresh yet resonant with her trademark artworks through the years. What about her design philosophy?

She answers, “It is premised on how art is a more serious matter than one normally, or casually, takes on. As many history books have stated, art represents the level of consciousness of a society. So what is dominating the art scene is what we are. On a deeper level, it speaks of the soul condition of the people where it thrives.”

The artist is no stranger to fashion as well as beauty. An aside: when she came back from studying Scenografia — a visual arts course in cinema, stage and costume design — at the Accademia Italiana in Rome (one of her classmates was Isabella Rossellini, one of the most beautiful women in the world), Impy ran Il Signore haberdashery and, as fate would have it, her shop created painted barongs and outfits for a band of brothers in Manila at that time for a concert. One of the siblings was named Michael. Collectively they were called the Jackson 5.   


If you asked Impy how jewelry-making differs and how it is similar to doing, say, glass, metal or stone sculptures, she would tell you that ergonomics come into the picture. 

“Jewelry allows the holder to travel with the artwork anytime and anywhere he or she chooses — since it is meant to be worn on the human body,” she expounds. You could deduce that it’s not just about concept and aesthetics.

“There are also considerations of size and scale. It felt like distilling one’s ideas so that they would translate succinctly yet elegantly without overpowering the personality of the wearer. Last but not least, an artist always strives to imply and apply his or her artistic fingerprint and message — tastefully. This is intrinsic to all my work.”

Sculpting life itself

When she was four, Impy was creating forms out of torn paper. With her hands since she wasn’t allowed to use scissors yet. She would then prop up the pieces. Her mother said they resembled human figures. “Perhaps,” Impy shares, “they were my first ‘sculptures.’”

Did all roads lead to her taking up the craft? She answers, “I cannot say that becoming a sculptor was a conscious decision. It just so happens that three-dimensional forms feel most appropriate in communicating and sharing my work.”

Impy digs Wassily Kandinsky and Rudolf Steiner; reads the books of Steiner, Rudolf Hauschka and Paul Krafel. From them she learned about wonder, compassion and conscience.

There are no “strategies” on her part, she stresses. “As an artist, my life is simply geared towards creation every day. I may not put my ideas into something tangible right away, but there is a ‘natural brewing’ continuously going on with things I imagine, see and encounter.”

She has exhibited in Rome (Galleria Il Camino, 1974); Tokyo, Ikebukuro and Yokohama (Arte Japan, Studio 5 Gallery and Rue de Ange Gallery, 1991 and ’92); Singapore and Hong Kong (Le Meridien and Seibu Gallery, 1994); Canberra and Sydney (2005); and countless shows in Manila.    

“I put the same amount of conscientiousness into all my exhibitions, but ‘Interactive: The 12 Senses’ was a turning point in my process.” 

The exhibit presented by the Ateneo Art Gallery featured the artist’s large-scale sculptures installed at the university quadrangle where visitors can “interact” with the pieces. Impy’s project introduced the notion developed by 20th century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner that a human being actually possesses 12 senses: “movement, balance, life, touch, temperature/warmth, sight, taste, smell, the sense of the ‘I,’ thought, word and hearing.” 

One writer called it “part-cinematic, part playful and undoubtedly the work of an accomplished sculptor.”

What inspires Impy to do large-scale interactive sculptures as well as wearable artworks? And to do everything with the sense of an artist on a personal journey of understanding nature and expressing awe.

“Opening my eyes every morning starts it,” Impy concludes. “The gift of a new day is always inspiring. I go where the higher world will take me.”

Thus, if you look at an Impy Pilapil piece — in elegant glass or contemplative steel — either you see yourself or the entire universe. Whichever is bigger and more wonderful.

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