At the Upper Gallery of Finale Art File in Makati, six large oil paintings depict narratives of how a painting is created. The paintings—“Artistic License,” “Painting the Paints,” “Finished/Unfinished,” “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” “Palette” and “The Things We Leave Behind”—were done by a Mindanaoan artist, Kelly Varias Ramos.
At 41, Ramos is “breaking the fourth wall,” so to speak, in her first solo exhibition of the same title. As in theater, where the “breaking of the fourth wall” is done by actors to communicate directly with the audience, Ramos involves the exhibit viewer through a CCTV recording the movement of viewers, and at interval, projects the images in the adjacent video room. When the viewers enter the video room, they see themselves contemplating on the paintings. The concept sort of “breaks” the imaginary wall that separates the work of art from its viewers.
Showing inclination to art as a child, Ramos, who came from a family of writers, educators and judges, was enrolled by her mother in an art workshop. It earned her awards in local art contests in her hometown of Cagayan de Oro.
Ramos later took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines Diliman. While there, she received the Juror’s Prize for nonrepresentational painting from the Art Association of the Philippines in 1991.
In her batch was this writer’s daughter, Maningning Miclat, who she said was a most fun friend to hang out with as an art student.
“Walking with her (from the College of Arts & Sciences to the Faculty Center to Vargas Museum) was really fun because she talked to the wind and told me about spirits that dwelt in various objects,” said Ramos.
“Maningning saw something extraordinary in the most ordinary objects, like the artistry of a twig resting on a scrap of paper along the way,” she added.
Ramos’ studies in UP were aborted when she eloped with a fellow art student, Marlon Palaganas. She took a hiatus from art to raise a family and moved back to Cagayan de Oro.
She honed her art skills outside the academe. She joined a so-called master’s class sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines which was conducted by Alice Guillermo. She was also in Sungduan 4, a group curatorial project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts under Patrick Flores.
She had an on-the-ground training as head of the visual arts department of the now defunct Red Lambago Art Collective. In 2007, she was a regional finalist in the Philippine Art Awards.
A high-school teacher reminded Ramos that there were other paths to follow in the pursuit of art. Although being an artist had always been her childhood dream, in her hiatus she became an art columnist for a local weekly, a curator and a cultural worker.
Asked why it took a long time before she launched a solo exhibit, Ramos replied: “It’s because of both practical and geographical reasons. It’s hard to immerse yourself fully in the arts while raising a family. Also, when I decided to build a life in the province, the small steps I had taken in the Manila art scene were negated by sheer distance from the art center.”
Last year, Ramos moved to Baguio with her three sons Kabunyan, 19; Kalinaw, 10; and Kaaro, 7. She wanted to continue doing painting and writing, and to reach her full potential. As vice president of Baguio Arts Guild, Kelly Ramos is all set to fulfill her dream.
“Breaking the Fourth Wall,” Kelly Ramos first solo exhibit, will run until Nov. 4, at the Upper Gallery, Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound Gate 1, 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City.