Friday, July 8, 2016

The power of flowers

"Daisy" by Kelly Ramos

BAGUIO CITY—Merci Javier Dulawan and Kelly Ramos, writers and painters both, had always talked about someday doing a joint project that would involve words and paint. It was a thought they put out there for the universe to pick up.

What happened instead was they found themselves for much of this summer working on unfurled sheets of watercolor paper to meet their target of 10 paintings for their current “The Watercolor Flower Show” at CafĂ© by the Ruins Dua, Upper Session Road, Baguio. The exhibit runs until July 10.

Although Ramos is the more formally trained one in fine arts at the University of the Philippines between the two painters, the self-taught Dulawan has had watercolor as her preferred medium of expression since the mid- to late 2000s. Ramos recalled doing just one watercolor plate as a school requirement and hadn’t touched the medium for more than 20 years.

Still they managed to work separately and confidently meet their deadline, even as the younger Ramos practiced on small scraps of paper.

Detail from Merci Dulawan's "Red Gumamela"

Choosing flowers as their subject was the easy part. Dulawan said, “Baguio means flowers, and ever since they’ve been my subject. New learning says that the edible protein found in flowers helps humans reflect, meditate, ruminate about our connection with the Divine. I feel connected. In this series, I honor the contribution of flowers to human.”

Uncannily enough, when it was time for the two to bring their finished works to the framers, they saw that they painted a variety of common flowers and not once did they have duplicates of a certain species of flora.

"Fifi's Pitcher Plant" by Dulawan

The experience revived Ramos’ interest in watercolor and the surprising effects that could be achieved with a medium that she once forsook for oil on canvas. She found the images right outside her home in Tawang, La Trinidad. And when the wildflowers weren’t enough for her, she went around the parks in Baguio and visited the ICM House of Prayer which has a sprawling garden enjoyed by those taking their spiritual retreats.

Dulawan quoted the children’s book author Hans Christian Andersen who wrote, “Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” -- Elizabeth Lolarga

This story earlier appeared in the July 6, 2016, issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Northen Luzon Supplement.

"Prickly Pear Cactus" by Ramos
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