Music instruments continuously remain under the shadow of their musician. But Australian-based Filipino artist Alwin Reamillo thinks otherwise. Alwin is a conceptual artist that restores pianos and transforms them into playable art pieces. In the process, this transformation rethinks the framework of the piano instrument, blurring the often times rigid boundaries between the creative and the technical.
Alwin has turned obscure piano brands and models into mixed-media masterpieces, adding wings, extra lids, image carvings, and images from classic movies. While Alwin is a fulltime visual and conceptual artist, his father Decimo Reamillo was a piano-maker whose family owned Javincello & company which produced the Wittemberg pianos- the leading maker of Filipino upright pianos and the country’s only maker of grand pianos. Alwin’s pianos artworks reveal the craftsmanship and artistry of the Filipino, something that does not often get the attention it rightly deserves nowadays, what with today’s technology invasion.
His first piano project entitled The Mang Emo + Mag-himo Grand Piano Project in 2007 caught the attention of The Singapore Art Museum that subsequently purchased one of his grand pianos which in turn was used to fund the next batch of pianos for his second piano project, The Nicanor Abelardo Grand Piano Project in 2008 at the UP Vargas Museum. Clouds and Wings was his third piano project and ran from June 19-July 11, 2010 at the Manila Contemporary, Philippines (I was one of the pianists in the opening show).
While Alwin currently resides in Australia and maintains a busy schedule all over the world, this proud UP and PHSA (Philippine High School for the Arts) alumnus has a nationalistic fervor that is very much in tact. In an article by Business World Alwin stressed that the artist’s role was first and foremost to be a builder: “There are so many things wrong with Philippine society. The more radical act is to build rather than to make works that are transgressed or angsty. We have to move forward.”
With all due respect, in my opinion Alwin’s pianos do not sound as good as how they look. But Alwin painstakingly restores and converts each piano at his exhibits (together with the former craftsmen of his family’s piano company) with a special intricacy and visual aesthetic that attracts attention from the growing fine art market in East Asia. I may be going further from music management and music business, but as a pianist, starting art collector and friend of Alwin, I thought it would be worth sharing what was emphasized in class- the opportunity of niche markets, which can often arise in the most unlikely of places. And in the case of Alwin’s works, showing stunning results and drawing attention from the fine art world.