Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Ramon Diaz: From sumo wrestling to koi

Watching the wrestlers at 12 is among the memories he’s turned into art

Oishi Daishi, pencil and ink on paper

The Migration, acrylic on braille paper

“My father took me to see sumo wrestling when I was 12 years old,” recalls artist Ramon Diaz. From his memories, and on that fateful trip to Japan, he conjured up images and fleshed them into paintings for an exhibit entitled Visions of Interest.

“When something catches you, you don’t forget,” he says, after drawing and studying sumo wrestlers for several years. “These are memories; while watching, you also take pictures of your own interpretation. You have to know the rules because you cannot do something foul when you have to paint it. If you don’t paint the sumo properly, it looks like they’re dancing; you cannot see form in it.”

‘When I observe the koi, I see how they dance. They follow each other…. anybody can be a leader

Catching on from watching sumo wrestling and his love for Asia, he began to paint koi. A large koi painting hangs at the center of his exhibit—from memories of a trip in his youth, but now transformed after years of examining the fish. “When I paint, I like the flow of how I can arrange something. When I observe the koi, I see how they dance. They follow each other. It doesn’t matter if it is the biggest or the smallest; anybody can be a leader, and they don’t hurt each other. They say the koi are very strong because they can climb and swim upward in a waterfall.”

He talks about how each koi painting has to have balance and symmetry.

The Guiding Light of Batangas,
mixed media on paper

Diaz, who says he’s dyslexic and has a hard time following what he reads, can wax poetic about the subjects he paints. Horses are a favorite, as are lighthouses, sailboats, and cars. These things fascinate him, and in the current exhibit, one sees reveries of these objects. “I travel a lot. I go to Europe, South America, and just around Asia. I also lived abroad for a few years. All these have influenced my work.

Diaz says he loves Chinese paintings and figurines. He appreciates the Tang dynasty and the Song dynasty and how, with each dynasty, the look changes. “They don’t necessarily evolve, but their forms differ.”

Diaz uses a wide range of media—oil on canvas, or mixed media, mixed media and oil on fabriano paper, acrylic on paper, Chinese ink and oil on paper, pencil and ink on paper.

In the same vein, Diaz says that his painting style has no rules or timelines. Sometimes it takes him 30 minutes to complete a work; at other times, it takes days or weeks, and suddenly with one stroke, voilà, it’s done. Then there are times when he says he doesn’t know when to stop and is overworked. These revelations, spoken like a true artist, are part of his process.

Diaz, who can make ambigrams and speak six languages, says that whether his work is realistic or abstract or even “very, very blurry” —all depending on his influences and mood at the moment—they all stem from the same place: visions acquired from memories and experience.

Catch Ramon Diaz’s Visions of Interest at J Studio Gallery, 2241 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati, until October 8.

About author


She was fashion editor of Mega and Metro magazines, in different stints, and former editor in chief of Metro style. She also wrote for Philippine Daily Inquirer for a decade. She lived and worked in Paris for eight years, writing for international publications, and worked as copywriter for Louis Vuitton Paris. Now based in Manila, she has a content marketing and copywriting firm. She continues to write about luxury and fashion.

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