Gregory Halili has always painted in miniature, peering through a magnifying glass to create his delicate works of art that are sometimes just one to two inches in size. With his Relicario series, he experimented on age-old containers of holy objects to produce breathtaking results.
Why do you paint small-scale or miniature works?
I’m attracted to the intimacy of small works, particularly the delicate manifestation of details.
Currently, I’m exploring portraiture by capturing the character in a single image. I’m also interested in using pearl and found objects as the base for my medium. Inspiration occurs anywhere, but the work itself develops from previous work. It evolves.
What inspired you to paint your Relicario series?
My nostalgic memory of Semana Santa [Holy Week]. As a child, the experiences of seeing the traditional rural processions were forever ingrained in my mind. I wanted to create something that would capture and contain those experiences. The Relicario series are my time machines—images of the past contained in authentic Filipiniana vessels.
What was the most challenging aspect of this series?
The patience to be true to the heart and finding the right materials for it. All the relicarios are authentic and unique, which I personally sourced and bought at small antique shops around Manila. It was like a treasure hunt, and it took years to find the perfect collection.
Did painting religious themes feel different?
Painting religious subjects elicits a different emotion as opposed to creating a portrait. I felt connected to the old masters and miniaturists who created work with similar subjects.
How do you live your life of faith?
As an artist, I respect all religions and their views, and I am spiritual in my own way.