Clear Impressions: The Glass Sculpture of Maestro Ramon Orlina
By Patricia Simone Dauz
His pieces from the current exhibit evoke both sensuality and modernism, with their flowing curves and geometric shapes
After practicing his profession as an architect for 10 years, Ramon Orlina’s primary venture into the field of Fine Arts was in July 1975. The revered Filipino artist mounted his first solo exhibit at the former Hyatt Hotel in Manila entitled Reflections, Paintings on Glass. This was his first breakthrough in the art scene. Eighty percent of the 25 glass paintings in the exhibit were sold.
“Meron akong amber, meron akong pink, each one has its own quality. But this one, I find it pure,” Orlina referred to having clear optical glass as his primary choice for this new exhibit. In fact, it is not easy to cut that material. “It can only be cut by diamonds. Diamond is the hardest material that can cut through anything. If you’ve noticed, about 10% of what is mined is used for jewelry, the rest of them are for industrial use.”
Orlina related that there was a time when one of his workers pilfered a pair of diamond cutters because it could be sold at a high price. “Nobody has been doing what I’ve been doing because I was the one who developed this from the stage of cutting, grinding, smoothing, polishing…Republic Glass has helped me in…say…buying all these materials.” The artist also mentioned that for him to finish one glass sculpture, it usually takes around a month to a month and a half.
After his Hyatt success, Republic Glass Corp. (RGC) offered him a scholarship. However, Orlina believed greatly in independence that’s why he thanked them instead then turned down the scholarship. What he did was enter into a contract with them for two years, which allowed him to utilize the company site, in exchange of giving them credit for every artwork he has made during that period.
In ten years after he left RCG, Orlina struggled as an artist but never gave up. Eventually, his hard work paid off. His Wings of Victory, worth $300,000, brought him to international attention. This is an artwork made up of 67 steel birds of varying colors, each weighing 35 kilograms. It hung from the eight-storey Wisma Atria in Singapore for a very long time.
“Even my driver has his own car. My boy has his own car. I treat them well,” he said. “To tell you frankly, two of my ‘boys’ are now in the second generation.” Even though Orlina is very hands-on when it comes to his artwork and his museum, he knew that no man is an island that’s why he is very generous to his employees. “You treat them well and they’re very loyal.” Last November 28, two days prior to the Clear Impressions exhibit at the Reflections Gallery of Museo Orlina, this writer, along with other fellow arts enthusiasts and press people, were given an exclusive tour by the artist-owner himself. A duo of sculptures authored by Orlina’s daughters, Monina and Anna, is also featured in this dazzling array of clear optical glass work which total to 23 new sculptures.
He first used this material in his 199 entry for Japan’s Toyamura Sculpture Biennale. Silvery Moon won the Mr. F. prize, a special prize. Modern Eve, the lone piece which is figurative in structure, will have 4 twins in the future, since he has already been commissioned to create that number of duplicates.
Two sculptures, Arcanum XIX, Paradise Gained (recreation), and Vision in the Sky, will be completed in 2016. The former, made in 1976, is regarded as Philippines’ first glass sculpture. The latter is the print on the Museo Orlina shirt, envisioned by the maker to shine in the darkness of the night, as it’s embedded on the museum’s exterior.