Ann Tiukinhoy Pamintuan’s menagerie of wrought-iron sculptures has taken over the verdant garden courtyard of Ayala Malls The 30th, the six-month-old community mall on Meralco Avenue in Ortigas, Pasig City.
On Tuesday, the Davao-based sculptor and designer unveiled a limited exhibit of ornamental works, notably life-size animals of woven and chiseled wire, her signature medium.
Mariana Zóbel de Ayala, the mall’s general manager (GM), said they’re inviting artists such as Pamintuan in line with Ayala Malls The 30th’s efforts to “create community,” where denizens of the neighborhood can “explore and bring their different passions and share them.”
The new mall is intimate and decidedly smaller than most of Ayala Land’s retail properties, such that niche activities like this could help redefine the idea of a community lifestyle mall, she added.
“It’s not new to Ayala Malls,” said Zóbel de Ayala. “We want to be known for allowing people to explore and bring their different passions, especially in the community. Ann isn’t a new artist so we’re lucky to have her as our showcase moment. It gives people reason to come back and be comfortable here.”
Pamintuan’s exhibit is interactive—mallgoers are allowed to touch her sculptures. When Zóbel de Ayala first met with the artist and learned that Pamintuan encourages people to touch her works, “We realized it was a perfect match at the 30th [because] our weekends are family-based. Even as we’re setting up, kids were already playing with the sculptures. At first the guards were nervous and I said that’s what the artist wants. It gives so much life to our Corte.”
“It’s a privilege and opportunity to bring out your art,” said the artist. “That’s what I want, for people to learn to touch art. In other exhibits, they cordon it. I say, you have to let them feel it, touch it.”
Pamintuan is a longtime “partner artist” of the Ayala Group. Some of her pieces grace several of the developer’s properties, both the hotels and malls.
“When I did ‘The Siblings’ exhibit in Greenbelt”—her collection of horse sculptures in 2013 at the Makati mall’s ArtPark—“one scene touches me to this day. I saw it from the second floor. There was a man on a wheelchair, he stood up and hugged the horse … Then there was this little kid having fun playing with [the horses]. I don’t have formal training in sculpture, maybe [the kids] will be inspired to do something like this in the future.”
Pamintuan’s animals have evolved through the years. The ostriches in the ongoing exhibit, for instance, have been given color—gold, copper, silver. She usually renders them in slate gray or black, just like the mother-and-child carabaos and giraffes on show.
She has done monkeys, jaguars, reindeer, turtles, even butanding (whale shark). The carabao, she said, was challenging to produce “because you always try to make it different from the realistic.”
She’s working on an eagle, but still finds excitement in making her horses—bending, chiseling the equine’s powerful and muscular form in various poses.
Pamintuan’s design career started with export bags and electroplated jewelry made of plants and shells. She stumbled on her now trademark medium, wrought iron, by chance while exploring possible products for Manila FAME. She tinkered with “gauge 10 sampayan” (clothesline wire) and made her first chair.
“I borrowed a welding machine. I didn’t know I could do furniture,” she said. Her Cocoon chair would eventually win international awards.
In October, a design center she nurtured in Mindanao through the Mindanao Trade Expo Foundation, which she headed for 22 years, will unveil its first range of products at Manila FAME. She’s mentoring acolytes in product development.
With export revenues down owing to the global recession, Pamintuan is busy doing other projects. She continues to do her jewelry, Christmas decor and other decorative wares.
The frustrated architect has also dabbled in house design—her sister’s in a Makati village. The gate alone is decidedly “very me,” she said, that passersby would instantly recognize it.
“The design journey wasn’t easy, but the blessings [make me happy],” she said. “When people say, ‘Ann Pamintuan yan, mahal yan’ … The thought that you’re accepted in any field … God has been good.”