6 November 2013

Miguel Aquilizan, Sculpture and Pygmalion

Words: Saskia Edwards
Interview: Jonathan Rae
Images: Jonathan Rae

 In Greek mythology there exists a character, Pygmalion – an illustrious sculptor dedicated to the meticulous art form of carving. Pygmalion decides to create a new opus, to trump all his previous efforts. He selects a fine milky-nacreous coloured piece of ivory. Pygmalion works diligently and tirelessly chiselling until it uncovers a woman, Galatea. She is so rapturously beautiful he falls in love with the statue and adorns the figure in fine silks and jewels. Aphrodite heard him. So she went to view the sculpture. Equally enamoured with the radiant woman, Aphrodite injects Galatea with life. Pygmalion falls to Galatea’s feet. And she looks down at him and smiles.

Miguel Aquilizan, a distinguished Pilipino-born sculptor, has this in common with Pygmalion. Miguel says it’s his final work, not an external influence, which inspires him. Jonathan Rae asked him what it’s all about.

JR: What’s your latest artwork series about?
MA: My next series of work is called Atrophy. Well that’s the latest series. I’m remaking my own taxidermy animals, traditional taxidermy methods. I adorn it with products processed by human beings through nature. 

JR: How’s this different from what you’ve done before?
MA: The first series I’ve done is called Heirloom and the materials I used for that series is all second-hand antique objects and then mixing it with animal products like leather, fur, feathers, eggs, bones and having the element of bondage throughout it and playing with that whole idea of personal belonging and its value to one person. With the Atrophy series it’s all about the process of taxidermy where you kill an animal and then you try to preserve it, like building it through pleasure and I guess guilt. Like you’re guilty of killing this animal, so you try to preserve it from its natural form, which comes down to taxidermy. The themes I work with in my artwork are basically revolves around human emotion and memories. 

JR: What inspires you the most in your practice?
MA: With my practice what inspires me is the form itself. The actual end product of what I make. Usually when I make stuff I don’t do studies, give me materials, I’ll form it. Instead using blueprints to follow things I follow my hands. There’s a saying, “I paint with my hands”. That’s what my art teacher told me. I follow my instincts to create something visually.  

JR: What’s next for you in terms of your art?
MA: I’m just trying to continue and develop my skill as a sculpture artist and continue exploring all these materials and what it means to a person... I’m moving onto marble busts and so far that’s what I’ve been doing.

JR: Sounds expensive.
MA: Really expensive! That’s why I’ve been so poor! This year I’ve never been this poor, but like you have to work hard for what you want to do. I’m really lucky enough that after that first show, the first proper show I did in the Philippines, doors opened for me and now I’m doing solo booth exhibition in the Taipei art fair. 

JR: Why have you chosen sculpture and not any other medium?
MA: I was doing art school since I was maybe 12-13 and growing up with parents that are both artists I was really exposed to these things but throughout the years of studying art and all that I basically found a calling. Not a calling, but more of a massive interest in 3D objects compared to 2D objects. I love things that you can go around and see every crevice, see every detail. Sculpture is 3D and it’s not in a 2D format and it has a more different feel to it, depending on how you work on these things. I just love sculpture in general.

(Pictured: Three heads from Miguel's Atrophy series)

(Pictured: A piece from Miguel's previous Heirloom collection)

(Pictured: Miguel in his studio working on one his the pieces from Atrophy) 

Disclaimer (FULL DISCLOSURE: The photographer and author have a personal relationship with Miguel Aquilizan)

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