Kiri Lluch Dalena: Art runs in the blood | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Giant logs washed out and fished from the sea and cut in sections take center stage at Warehouse 17 (La Fuerza Compound, Chino Roces Avenue [Pasong Tamo], Makati).

Balete, lauan and  tipolo wood are only three out of  thousands of  trees uprooted by typhoon “Sendong” that devastated Iligan City in December last year. Together with already felled ones, they came tumbling down the mountains.

Houses, whole communities, in fact, were destroyed. A total of 800 bodies were recovered, while more than a thousand remain missing. Damage to property was estimated at P2.068 billion, including roads and bridges.

Artist and filmmaker Kiri Lluch Dalena has made an art installation out of the trees in an exhibit titled “Washed Out.” The work is overwhelming and gripping. It is made more poignant by a video documentation of the disaster, shot by Dalena herself, and projected on two walls of Finale Art File Gallery. The walls are large-scale, measuring 17 x 33 ft and 17 x 67 ft.

After finishing a bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology at UP Los Baños, Dalena enrolled at the Mowelfund Film Institute. She first worked as a cinematographer for the 16-mm short film “Palugid” (Margin), directed by Paolo Villaluna, in 2000. It won an Urian for short film.

It was followed by documentaries she did as part of the Southern Tagalog Exposure collective, which she co-founded in 2001. “Alingawngaw ng Punglo” (Echo of Bullets) is a record of human-rights violations. “Red Saga” was inspired by the late artist and poet Maningning Miclat’s poignant essay of the same title.

Family of artists

Gabriela Krista, nicknamed Kiri, is the youngest of three daughters of celebrated and consummate artists, painter Danny Dalena and sculptor Julie Lluch.

The three sisters are passionate artists themselves. The eldest, Sari, is an indie filmmaker who has won international acclaim for her films “Rigodon” and “Memories of a Forgotten War.” Her latest film, “Ka Oryang,” won for her a Best Director award at Cinema One Originals 2011 and a nomination at the 35th Gawad Urian. Kiri was a nominee for Best Cinematography in the same film, together with Neil Daza.

The second sister, Aba, is an art teacher, painter and sculptor. She had her first solo exhibit of 300 clay animal sculptures at age 6 and will soon be unveiling her sculpture of Ninoy and Cory Aquino in Tarlac.

According to Julie Lluch, her daughters are “dedicated to their art, highly visual and lyrical, highly charged and very passionate.”

Kiri’s “rhapsodic level of artistry” was seen in her solo exhibit of five life-size terra-cotta in acrylic, “Found Figures,”  at Mag:net Gallery in 2007.  It was an off-shoot of her hiatus from filmmaking in 2006. She went back to sculpture which she left behind in 1996.

In 2000, her sculptures were exhibited in a group exhibit, “4 Women Souls,”  together with Maningning Miclat, Egay Lacaba and Vivian Limpin, at Surrounded by Water Art Gallery in Ortigas.

Artist residency

In 2009, Kiri was a recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards for the exhibit “Keeping the Faith.” (Leeroy New and Patricia Eustaquio were the two other awardees.) It was curated by Eileen Legaspi and Claro Ramirez at Lopez Museum.

The award won for her an artist residency in Bandung, Indonesia. She would again be shortlisted for another Ateneo Award in 2010 for her “The Present Disorder Is the Order of the Future,” a solo show held at Mo_Space Gallery in Taguig. That year also started her series of documentaries with Patricia Evangelista for ANC, titled “Truths.”

One might imagine Kiri as grave and  sullen, what with her advocacy for human rights, as exemplified in her exhibit “Time and Place of Incident,” held at Vargas Museum, UP Diliman, in December 2011.

But there is a humorous side of her, as shown in her 200 thumb-size terra-cotta penises titled  “Penis Line (After Mommy).” It was part of a family exhibit titled “Home Works.”

Of all her artistic creations, Kiri considers “Washed Out” the most difficult.  “A lot of the work involved was beyond my control,” she said. “But persistence paid off.”

She continued: “Lots of people were generous in their support—filmmaker friends contributed memory cards. And there’s Canon Philippines, Optima Digital, and, of course, Finale for the venue, and many others. I could not but thank them for believing in the show.”

Kiri Dalena exhorted her fellow artists to “persevere, even if it’s difficult, and a lot of times our works are unappreciated. In the end, for as long as it fulfills you and it’s honest, I think that’s all that matters.”

“Washed Out” is curated by Clarissa Chikiamco, with artist talk held on June 16. The exhibit runs until June 30.

Contributor is the executive director of Maningning Miclat Art Foundation Inc. Mmafi will accept entries in its Painting Competition this year with the theme “The Nation in My Mind/Ang Pangarap Kong Bayan.”

Visit E-mail author at

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.