Anna Lee Orlina, daughter of Lay Ann Lee and pioneering Philippine glass sculptor Ramon Orlina, represents the next generation of artists who promise to extend the frontiers of the craft while harnessing the power of light to shape and reshape figures and forms that configure the world and its manifold riches.
Anna L. Orlina’s debut exhibit is a highlight, along with her dad’s and other major sculptors’, of the Annual Sculpture Review of ManilART 2022, on Oct. 19-23 at SM Aura, Taguig City.
Propitiously enough the theme this year of the country’s first and oldest national art fair is “Forging Futures.”
The third of four children of the Orlinas, Anna grew up in a family reared in artmaking. Their father is one of the few names in Philippine art with a global reputation, whose glass sculptures and other works are in international collections and international sites. His pathfinding achievement of perfecting the cutting, grinding, and polishing glass cutlets and rendering them in translucent abstract forms that appear solid and whole and at the same time, light and floating, has made him a universal byword in glass craft.
Ramon Orlina’s achievements are enshrined in Museo Orlina, which opened in 2014 and has since become an important tourist destination in Tagaytay City. Anna and her siblings, Naesa, Ning Ning, and Michael, have played a part in the management of the museum. Anna, Ning Ning and Michael have also co-founded the in-house arts and music festival, Tagaytay Art Beat.
Museo Orlina and the Orlina Atelier in Sampaloc, Manila have become part and parcel of the Philippines’ cultural landscape. (Orlina Atelier even has its own basketball team among its craftsmen and workers that competes in local leagues.) And Anna and her siblings through their respective individual and collective work have been trying to carry on with that scintillating and very prestigious legacy.
“Growing up around glass and the workshop, I learned my father’s techniques just by watching him and his assistants work,” Anna said in an interview. “So my father suggested that my brother and I go to Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state to see how other people make their glassworks.”
At Pilchuck, she attended the Beginner Glass Blowing class with Rui Sasaki. Later in the same school, she studied glassblowing and engraving with Sarah Gilbert and Jára Šára.
At the Corning Museum of Glass, Anna studied Bohemian Glass Engraving, also with Jára Šára. She also studied Cold Construction with Martin Rosol in the same New York school.
Since Bohemia is the capital of glass work in Central Europe, Anna later went to the Vyšší odborná škola sklářská a Střední škola, the glass school in Nový Bor, Czech Republic. There, she learned glass painting, cold cutting, making tiffany stained glass, and sandblasting.
Admittedly, Anna has been heavily influenced by her famous father. She collaborated with him in her first glass sculpture, “Pastel Sunrise,” a geometric abstraction with novel pastel doses. “For the pastel work, it was a piece made in 2015 in collaboration with my father who used a technique using enamel paint on the glass,” she told this writer. “I just chose a pastel color for it. It was an unconventional experimental technique my father played around with.”
Her next notable work was “Mon Drian (2019), the title a playful portmanteau that betrays the work’s wish to pay tribute to two masters of geometric abstraction, her dad and the Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian. Through the work, she became one of 10 finalists to the 2019 MullenLowe’s 2019 NOVA Awards of the United Kingdom.
Like “Pastel Sunrise,” “Mon Drian” is distinguished by its playful polychromatic verve. This is emerging to be her signature. “Yes, I wanted to still do the Coldworking technique similar to my dad but had to figure a way for it to still be different and distinguishable from his works,” she explained. “The colors mixed with clear optical glass help bring out different angles, reflections and the play of colors to abstract glass sculptures.”
Her opalescent works likewise show her experimentation with light. “Making different angles and cuts help the light, colors and reflections bounce off each other,” she said. “In terms of lighting for my works, I prefer the simple spotlight type or lighting from above. Since I use clear optic glass in combination with the colors, the underneath lighting isn’t the best to bring out the best reflections and vibrancy.”
“Pastel Sunrise” and “Mon Drian” will be on exhibit at ManilART 2022 but her favorite is a semi-abstraction of a butterfly, “Metamorphosis.” “Just because it’s a butterfly,” Anna said, “and it’s symbolism is parallel to me emerging as an artist with this debut.”
ManilART 2022 is set to run from October 19-23, 2022, at the SMX Convention Center, 3rd Level, SM Aura Premier, Taguig City. Call (0977) 807 3369 or visit www.manilartfair.com for details.