September 18, 2023
From a vast array of coral, shells, agates, and more, Gregory Halili (previously) shapes anatomical features and cosmic phenomena in intricate detail. The artist uses iridescent mother-of-pearl to accentuate round skulls or teardrops leaking from eyes, working with the inherent natural shapes and textures of materials he finds around his studio, located about an hour south of Manila.
Several years ago, Halili began carving lifelike miniature skulls into shells he found on beaches around the Philippines. He also uses oil paint to render minuscule details of individual eyes, painted on the reverse of transparent glass or crystal. Since then, his practice has evolved to include larger pieces that incorporate an array of smaller works and natural materials. He says:
I started to create these massive works filled with miniature paintings and objects. I’m a painter, but I learned to create sculptures, to weld, use cutting and power tools, and drill into stones and metals…My method and thinking process is still painterly, creating the works as layers, constructing and deconstructing them, and figuring out the forms and gestures as I create.
Halili’s Coments, a recent series of assemblages, expands on the ritual of searching for and recontextualizing found objects, ranging from metal to minerals to antiques. Each sculpture contains more than a hundred items found along beaches, at flea markets, and in antique stores. “These works are about renewal, return, and reincarnation,” he says, emphasizing how disused or abandoned objects find new life in his work.
Halili’s work is currently on view at the National Museum of the Philippines in Placuna placenta: Capis Shells and Windows to Indigenous Artistry. You can find more on Instagram.
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