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Dance of the Giants

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Painter Ramon Diaz captures on paper the hypnotic dance of sumo wrestlers.


Two overweight men inside a ring pushing each other may be entertainment for some. But for painter Ramon Diaz sumo wrestling is art.


“The whole thing is beautiful,” the 64-year-old Diaz (brother of beauty queen Gloria Diaz) said when asked why he chose to paint Japanese wrestlers.

Everything— from the ceremony before the fight to the discipline of the audience—inspired him to put the traditional sport on canvas. More than mere violence, sumo wrestling, at least for Diaz, is like a dance; it’s both graceful and seemingly choreographed.


With acrylic paint and Chinese ink, Diaz captures the wrestlers’ movements on paper. His paintings reflect the different forms and stance fighters use as they struggle to subdue their opponents.


Deforming Reality

In capturing movements, Diaz focuses more on the mood of the moment. Not a fan of realism, he tries to make his works a little more abstract. “There are already so many people who are very talented in doing realist (paintings). I’d like to go a little bit more on the expressionist, the abstract,” he told guests at a recent exhibit.


Diaz compared his style to traditional paintings of Chinese horses, which were either too long or too fat. He said the form may not look real, but it was beautiful nonetheless.


Why the Chinese paint that way is still a puzzle to Diaz. “I don’t know why the Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern people, they already see the form of the animal... yet when they paint it, they (still) change the form.”

Asian Style


Aside from influencing his artistic style, the diverse Asian culture also provides Diaz with subjects for his paintings. Elegant Tang dynasty horses, colorful Kois (also known as Nishikigoi), and even unassuming sumo wrestlers are all oriental themes found in Diaz’s works.


But painting just one subject has become tiresome. So he started to paint underwater reefs, then sailboats, before doing Nishikigois, where he made his mark as an artist. He then got out of the water and painted Chinese horses and sumo wrestlers. In between all these, Diaz also did a lot of nudes and beach sceneries.


Painting a picture could take Diaz anything from four hours to a month. Finishing his work sometimes takes longer because of corrections. He has to wait for the first layer of paint to dry first before he could paint over it. “The more I correct it, the worse it becomes.”


But the tedious process and the long wait involved paid off as Diaz held one successful exhibit after another. His works are appreciated by his customers, most of them European and Chinese. He sold a lot of his paintings in an exhibit at the Steuben Glass gallery in New York.

Painting Words


He always knew that he would become an artist someday. Though afflicted with dyslexia as a child, the young Diaz kept on sketching practically all the time. He had to repeat the first grade three to four times because of the learning disability. He said he could interpret and remember things very well but he missed articles and screwed up spelling when he wrote. “I think my mind is going faster than my writing,” he mused.


Dyslexia may have messed with how Diaz wrote down words, but it wasn’t enough to ruin his artistic talent. He studied graphics in Germany, photography in Belgium and England, and color separation in Netherlands.


After backpacking across Europe to study, Diaz came back to Manila armed with knowledge about graphics and photography. To his disappointment, he found out that the form of photography he studied was already obsolete. Color separation was also computerized, making the training he acquired overseas outdated.


He began painting but found it hard to make money off it. He then decided to distribute printing and graphic supplies. When he felt the time was right and prices of paintings were going up, he picked up his brush and started to paint again.


Now, Diaz’s paintings are displayed in galleries here and abroad. His works, known for their simple beauty and elegance, are meant to draw emotions and thoughts from audiences. Through his paintings Diaz wants to expose people, especially children, to art and encourage them to appreciate it at a young age.


For him art could either be realistic or abstract but the important thing is to be able to appreciate it in whatever form it comes. Does art need to have a message to be appreciated? Diaz said, “It (art) doesn’t always have to be understood.”

Print ed: 01/09


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