A superhero is often defined by his opposition. We plot out the course of his development as a character through the perils and challenges presented by his or her own set of villains.
Like these heroes, our lives are also defined by the way we meet challenges. We are, in many ways, a product of duality. In this way, everyone creates their own gallery of rogues—and this is the narrative strain we see in artist Reybert Ramos’ second one-man show.
Last we saw the intrepid artist, he was coming off of the success of his first one-man, Dog Days. Reviews were positive and his works became sought-after. This, of course, isn’t at all surprising considering the soundness of his conceptual aesthetic motifs—that of figures with the heads of various dog breeds. His alignment with the heady and complex surrealist movement, not to mention sublime hyperrealist technique, has heralded the coming of a talented visual artist. Ramos used this initial success as a springboard for a larger career, participating and selling at international art fairs in Hong Kong. Now, he takes this concept further, developing new ways to approach the idea best put by surrealist ideologue Andre Breton: “The imaginary is what tends to become real.”
This central conceit of hypnagogia, the state between dream and reality, still forms the crux of Ramos’ show at Galerie Stephanie. Appropriately called Rogues Gallery and opening on May 21, the show represents an evolution of sorts—bringing together a renewed vision of the duality of humanity and reinforced by the weight of experience and memory. If we, as heroes in our own reality, are to be defined by the demons in our lives, what then becomes of our own humanity? This fascinating take on dualism–of the binary interactions that are so inherent to mankind–shows exactly how far Ramos has come in his practice.
Reybert Ramos is an alumnus of the Philippine High School for the Arts and has a Fine Arts degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman. For more than a decade, Ramos worked as the Art Director of GMA Network, one of the largest media companies in the country. The combustive mix of ideas in the fast-paced world of broadcast and media was undoubtedly a formative experience for his practice. Already possessing the technical ability to bring about a vision, Ramos chose to take his cue from mass media and create works with heavy pop leanings. Drawing heavily from archetypes–the beer guzzler, the photographer–Ramos has created a world where reality and dream converge: the perfect surrealist worldview.
Ramos looks at a typical human figure and steadfastly refuses to bestow humanity upon them, replacing what is the definitive organ of humanity–the brain and head–with that of an animal driven by pure instinct: that of your average, run-of-the-mill canine. Take Diskusyon: here the figure holds a beer and gestures as if explaining something. But are we to take him seriously if he possesses the head of a dog? Perhaps this is how Ramos sees the progress of discussion, discourse, and debate. Employee of the Month has a figure dressed in a hoodie, a disinterested hound head looking sideways to the beyond while a bullseye target is painted in the background (which is new to Ramos, since he normally leaves his backgrounds blanks). The figure clashes with the title—why is the figure informal when the idea of a model employee is dressed in appropriate business attire? Does the target in the background imply the duality of success—where there is always someone looking to bring you down?
That Ramos asks these questions shows a remarkable degree of depth in his practice. This makes the prospect of a second exhibition exciting—and points the way to a flourishing career in the future.