ar t + de­sign

En­ter Nina Lau­rel’s ethereal won­der­land filled with hang­ing plas­tic sam­pa­guita flow­ers and spar­rows

Scout - - contents - In­ter­view by NICO PAS­CUAL

nina lau­rel

NINA LAU­REL is con­stantly shocked that she is con­sid­ered an adult by so­ci­ety. Af­ter 10 years work­ing as sculp­tor (and free­lance de­signer), Nina con­fesses she still has trou­ble putting her an­swers into proper sen­tences. She tells me that this stemmed from con­stantly try­ing to t in, ad­just, and con­form to while grow­ing up. Nina con­tin­ues by say­ing that af­ter re­turn­ing to the Philip­pines at age 12, she ex­pe­ri­enced cul­ture shock both in her pri­vate high school and at UP, where she stud­ied ne arts. De­spite this, her acrylic plas­tic sculp­tures, which are tagged as “un­usual” and “of­ten im­bued with light,” al­low Nina to cul­ti­vate her own unique voice. Be­cause making a sculp­ture, as she tells me, is more than making shapes out of inan­i­mate ob­jects; it is an on­go­ing ex­per­i­ment in the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties of cap­tur­ing and see­ing light.

Why did you choose sculp­ture as your artis­tic medium?

I enjoy the chal­lenge of deal­ing with ma­te­ri­als to cre­ate ob­jects that can hold their own in a room. I like plan­ning for the pro­duc­tion of 3D ob­jects then phys­i­cally making them with my own hands. I like the idea of making pieces that can speak on their own so I don’t have to say a word. Of all your art­works, what would be your fa­vorite so far? My fa­vorite art­work so far is my Sam­pa­guita chan­de­lier, which I made for the group ex­hibit The Pres­i­dent's Of­fice cu­rated by Antares Gomez Bartolome for Tin- Aw Gallery and Var­gas Mu­seum in UP Dil­i­man. All par­tic­i­pat­ing artists were tasked to recre­ate parts of the in­te­rior of Malaca ang Palace (which none of us had seen be­fore). For the en­trance of the ex­hibit, I cre­ated a large acrylic plas­tic chan­de­lier in­spired by the hang­ing strings of sam­pa­guita ow­ers - which are usu­ally car­ried by lo­cal street kids, pen­i­tents and sup­pli­cants - as a com­ment on how I think our coun­try presents it­self. Even though it’s a pretty-look­ing art­work, the con­cept be­hind it quite crit­i­cal.

How has art made an im­pres­sion on you grow­ing up?

My par­ents made sure that my younger brother and I were prop­erly ex­posed to arts and cul­ture in the usual ways (mu­se­ums, art and mu­sic classes, theater plays, travel). But it was at home that I learnt the joy of cre­at­ing things with my own hands. My fa­ther is an en­gi­neer and my mother has em­broi­dered, sewn or quilted ev­ery fab­ric sur­face at home. They are metic­u­lous home­own­ers who have xed or im­proved ev­ery inch of their home them­selves — I con­sider this a form of ex­pres­sion, of art making. Thus, they are my big­gest in uence. Grow­ing up around their in­ge­nu­ity and self-reliance has taught me that I can cre­ate a world of my own, but it needs to be a world that works, one that has func­tion and rea­son and pur­pose.

I’ve no­ticed that you’ve cho­sen to work with acrylic and plas­tic, could you tell us more about why you’ve cho­sen to use th­ese ma­te­ri­als? How im­por­tant is light in your art­works?

I be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with acrylic plas­tic as an art ma­te­rial in col­lege. At rst it was sim­ply a cheap and user-friendly sub­sti­tute ma­te­rial for glass, which I had wanted to work with for its trans­parency and glossi­ness. But I soon learned that aside from acrylic plas­tic’s su­per cial sim­i­lar­ity to glass, it could also be used to chan­nel light (via in­ter­nal re ec­tion and edge light­ing). When a light is shone into the edge of clear plas­tic, the light will bounce around in­side un­til it “ nds a way out” at an op­po­site edge. By scratch­ing, etch­ing and carv­ing de­tails into the sur­face of the plas­tic to cre­ate new edges and breaks, I can con­trol where the light es­capes (and is seen). The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Nara (Col­lab­o­ra­tion with Tara So­ri­ano) Acrylic plas­tic, LED lights, & brass 9 in. x 9 in. x 12 in. 2014

Do you have a plan in mind be­fore be­gin­ning a sculp­ture?

Be­cause of the tech­ni­cal as­pects of work­ing with acrylic plas­tic with light xtures, I usu­ally have a pretty de­tailed plan for ex­e­cu­tion be­fore I even touch the plas­tic sheets. I rst make small-scale mod­els out of pa­per to test if my ideas are ac­tu­ally fea­si­ble. I can only heat the plas­tic so many times be­fore it starts to de­grade, so I make sketches and guide­lines, take mea­sure­ments, and make check­lists early on to min­i­mize the need to re­work later.

Af­ter hav­ing re­hearsed what I need to do so many times in my head, the phys­i­cal la­bor — heat­ing, shap­ing, drilling, etch­ing — of­ten goes by in a blur of bright colors, power-tool noises, cru­cial tim­ing, and heat on my skin. It is in this zone where all my move­ments are ef cient and pur­pose­ful that I feel most con dent and alive.

Do you feel the need to con­stantly change as an artist?

I de nitely do feel the need to keep evolv­ing as an artist. Al­though I am still quite ob­sessed with work­ing with acrylic plas­tic, I do try out new tech­niques us­ing new tech­nol­ogy in each new piece I make to avoid bor­ing my­self silly. On a larger scale, I’m pretty ex­cited about how my themes and con­cepts will nat­u­rally change, as I get older. I don’t try to force this kind of growth.

Does your fas­ci­na­tion with try­ing new things ex­tend to your life as well?

I am a pretty cau­tious per­son by na­ture. I tend to stick with what I al­ready know just be­cause making new de­ci­sions can some­times be stress­ful. When I need to fo­cus on be­ing cre­ative and de­ci­sive for work, I can very eas­ily eat the same three meals for a month or have the same movie or playlist run­ning on loop for weeks just to cut down on the things I need to think about each day. I have to make a mind­ful ef­fort to ven­ture out of my com­fort zone ev­ery once in a while just to main­tain bal­ance in my life. I of­ten take classes or try to learn new things or ex­pose my­self to new sit­u­a­tions par­tic­u­larly be­cause I know I will prob­a­bly be awk­ward and un­com­fort­able amongst other peo­ple. I’m try­ing to train my­self to be less shy and self-con­scious.

Who is your fa­vorite artist now?

My fa­vorite artist now is Mark Jus­tini­ani. He works with mir­rors and lights to cre­ate sur­real il­lu­sions of in nity. I am very in­spired by how much fun he seems to have as he pushes the lim­its of what he can do with his in­stal­la­tions.

What’s next for you?

I am al­ways on the look­out for new tech­nolo­gies or pro­cesses that I can use with and on acrylic plas­tic. I tell sup­pli­ers: “If you have any new ma­te­ri­als or prod­ucts that might be fun to play with, let’s talk!” I get quite in­spired when I nd out about a new form of plas­tic or light­ing xture a sup­plier has that I can get hold of. I enjoy gur­ing out how I can best use the new tech­nol­ogy or tech­nique in a sculp­ture more than vi­su­al­iz­ing a speci c form or shape to make. I hope to be able to ex­press th­ese new ideas in some group ex­hibits next year.

Sam­pa­guita (Utang ng Loob)

at Tin-Aw Gallery Acrylic plas­tic and led light fix­tures

2014

at the group show Naked in Alien Ter­ri­tory, J Stu­dio Mixed Me­dia 13in x 12in x 12in 2015 Re­port Map Is­sue: You’ve Changed The Names of All Your Streets

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