Once more, Lilianna Manahan’s fanciful objects have drawn the attention of Galerie Joseph in Paris, a showroom in the heart of the city composed of nine galleries dedicated to new design, art and fashion.
Since Lilianna’s recognition as one of 6 rising young Asian talents at the inaugural of the prestigious French design fair Maison et Objets in Singapore in 2014, the gallery has again asked to feature her designs in this year’s Paris Design Week.
Last year, her brass Trojan Merchickens and other colorful creatures, which double up as flower vases or candelabras, attracted the curiosity of buyers and were sold out.
The Merchicken, inspired by the well-known Greek Trojan tale, stands on top of a cage, and within the cage are miniature soldiers with weapons aimed at what seems like a gigantically proportioned chicken.
The colorful creatures, on the other hand, derive their shapes from 4th-century Etruscan ornamentation, which through time and cultural exchange have evolved in shape from country to country.
Manahan observes that grown-up buyers who examine these pieces gingerly ask what kind of animals they are, or pretend to know what they are. Children, on the other hand, will immediately shout at first sight, “It’s a dog!” or “It’s a dinosaur!,” much to the designer’s amusement. “
“It can be whatever they want it to be,” she says.
This year, Manahan designed light fixtures that play with hearts and arrows; initially a romantic notion, the end products display an industrial bent.
Manahan has experimented extensively with various materials. A few years ago, she joined a welding class at the Spanish-funded vocational school Escuela Taller de Intramuros for a few weeks just to familiarize herself with metalwork crafts. (She intends to take the full workshop this year).
This year allowed her experience glass-making when the Czech Embassy in Manila invited her and two other designers to do design innovations for the world-famous Bohemian glassworks.
Along with Gabby Lichauco (whose furniture designs were also featured in the Milan Design Fair this year) and multi-awarded Stanley Ruiz, the three designers are spending a month in Prague working with artisans of the famed Bohemian glass.
Sometimes labeled “Peter Pan” because of her playful, childlike approach to design, Manahan nonetheless has a much deeper take on how concepts translate into the tangible.
She has travelled from a young age, and has a wealth of references in literature, ranging from Dr. Suess, Calvin and Hobbes and history books, to the works of C.S. Lewis and Gustave Dore’s illustrations for “Dante’s Inferno.”
The non-primary off-colors she opts for have identified her work in the past few years. While often described as “whimsical” or “flighty,” her visual language masks a more complex emotion or a spiritual truth.
In her very first exhibit in 2010, for example, called “Omelette”—composed of 12 intricately painted ostrich eggs—a story emerged upon close examination of the fine paintings.
In the 2014 installation “Rhythm,” the observer was coaxed to walk through a maze of multiple fish net veils, creating a sensory cube that looked solid but was light as mist. Manahan described it as “a whisper that keeps you walking,” in reference to a spiritual path one must take to experience a miracle in life.
Manahan’s work has continually evolved since her return after a year at Central St. Martins in London. She finished her Industrial Design degree, cum laude, at the University of the Philippines.