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‘Snap shoot’: When Lilianna Manahan’s Art sings

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 20, 2023 5:00 am

The song Snap Shoot by the Korean boy band Seventeen may not be the usual inspiration for the title of an art exhibit but when you listen to its playful and cheerful tune, your mood lightens up, much like the way one of Lilianna Manahan’s pieces manages to bring you to a state of euphoria.

For the artist’s solo show “Snap Shoot,” opening Wednesday, Feb. 22 at Leon Gallery, her favorite song received the honor thanks to her niece whose screams would lift the artist’s spirits when they would watch K-pop concerts together.

“Gangnam Style” (sculpted paper, acrylic, oil pastel, pencil)

Realizing her last solo exhibit was back in 2014, the thought of mounting her first show after the pandemic was quite daunting: “It has been both super fun and scary to do,” she shared. The fun part is that her love for music has always been integral to her creative process: the unique rhythms of jazz, funk, hip-hop, K-pop and K-hip-hop that accompany her when she works have no doubt acted as stimuli for the new collection of 30 pieces — 28 in sculpted paper and two in metal.

“I found that, especially with music whose lyrics I don’t understand, the feeling and tone are still able to make me feel what they are saying. I noticed this when I was watching a lot of opera during the ECQs. With Korean music, the language to me had a nice rhythm to it and almost sounded like another instrument. So with my work, I tried to capture the moments and depict them, the same way I would listen to a song, and understand the song through its tone and vibe.”

“Making Wonders aka Guillermo’s Workshop” (sculpted paper, acrylic, oil pastel, pencil)

Even with lyrics that she understands, Lilianna observes that what takes so many words to eloquently express as a thought or a feeling can be felt in a single brush stroke: “The rhythm of music and the visuals of an artwork are two mediums that transcend language, as the two draw out emotions that deem words unnecessary.”

“When Your Ears Hear” (sculpted paper, acrylic, oil pastel, pencil)

For her wall-mounted works, she turned to manipulating paper, which she found to “reflect the malleability of human emotions, which can bend any which way in a given moment.” She draws on it and colors it with oil pastel, acrylic and pencil while cutting out forms that she superimposes on the surface — carefully placing and orienting them to achieve an overall rhythm that characterizes each piece. “I am drawn more to 3D forms, paper, pencils and building things. When I decided to make my own characters/language for this collection, I saw them as differently shaped paintbrushes that I could use and put together to layer and grow on the paper to tell a story and show a feeling.”

I noticed that these moments really do bring joy and clarity, and allow me to enjoy the little things that add up to bigger, wonderful things.

It’s similar to her process when she creates her sculptures, home accessories and objects — like Groink and those other fantastical creatures or blown-glass objets that have brightened up many a tabletop or shelf of those who obsessively collect her pieces. The sculpted forms in these artworks are like individual creatures on their own, part of her continuing engagement with “Creation” — the split second between unformed things in darkness and the time they are called out to light and become something — having the rhythm and complexity of the music that inspires her, illustrating milestones being formed before time.

“Dhalsim’s Kick” (sculpted paper, acrylic, oil pastel, pencil)

Lilianna’s strategic use of color further brings out the emotions of each piece: hyper neons characterize the giddiness of her first love in “Loves Me, Loves Me Not.” Pink, her niece’s favorite color, dominates “Fan Girl.” Blacks and yellows enervate and bring comfort in “Warm Ramen Nights” while metallics evoke the eternal in “When Your Ears Hear.” White, the non-color, is uncharacteristically assertive with a deluge of meticulously formed and arranged flotsam and jetsam in the diptych “White Noise and White Noise Also.” Primary colors in “Cheers” and “Gameboy Night” turn nostalgic for hanging out and playing video games. Dhalsim, the character in the game Street Fighter, gets a special tribute for his knockout kick “because he was blue and elastic and he brought back memories of playing with friends during sleepovers — how competitive we were and how fun it would be to win.”

“Sorbetes Surprise” (sculpted paper, acrylic, oil pastel, pencil)

Her own milestones in life, which are references for the artworks, are small little wonders that are actually very momentary in real life, like the split-second images captured by a camera’s shutter: the feeling of a middle school crush, a scoop of sorbetes, the screams of a K-pop-obsessed niece. But Lilianna reveals that these images “are the ones that have stuck to my memory the most. I noticed that these moments really do bring joy and clarity, and allow me to enjoy the little things that add up to bigger, wonderful things.” It’s not surprising that looking at Lilianna’s works in “Snap Shoots,” one hears melodies that express the feelings and makings of a beautiful life, which “in some ways, where your everyday seems the same, become special when every moment is framed.” In much the same way, the words of the Korean boy band resonate: “I’m snapping along with your movements, bringing newness to everyday, drawing this moment with your light.”

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“Snap Shoot” runs from Feb. 22 to March 6, 2023 at Leon Gallery International – G/F Corinthian Plaza, 121 Paseo de Roxas, Legazpi Village, Makati. Log on to and follow her on IG @liliannamanahan.