Presenting Baguio in café still lifes
TWO MIGRANT artists, both women, capture in square canvases the alternating bustle and zen silence of a café during peak and slow hours.
“Duha sa Dua,” to mean “Two at the Second,” features oils by Kelly Ramos and acrylic works by Meling Abuga-a on the second level of Café by the Ruins Dua on Upper Session Road Extension in Baguio City.
Exhibition notes writer Zola Gonzalez-Macarambon noted how the square format adopted for the food and related subjects looked “Instagrammable,” a reference to the now commonplace practice of taking quick smartphone photos of the meal one is about to eat, then posting these shots on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook accounts.
The strokes of the two have that hurriedness as though any second a thirsty person will snatch the glass of honey lemon tea for one long cool gulp of refreshment. Or the ravenous will descend on that “bagnet” (crispy fried pork belly) while it’s hot and crunchy.
While Ramos has been settled in Baguio for three years, Abuga-a was transplanted only in March, but already they’ve found the creative groove to share wall space for works that look like musical points and counterpoints.
Ramos, who studied fine arts at the University of the Philippines, says, “Anywhere and everywhere is a creative playground to those with the right kind of attitude. I like Baguio for its people most especially, as long as you keep away from the city center during heavy traffic and tourist days.”
Abuga-a is clearly adjusting, half complaining about the cold weather and life in this city as being “full of ups and downs literally, metaphorically, physically and mentally.” She studied agriculture but that didn’t keep her from learning the basics of art by hanging out at museums and learning from the masters. In 2012, she finished a cartooning and animation course in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
It’s interesting how they present Baguio in café still lifes, not landscapes. Of this Abuga-a says, “One of the things I’ve noticed with people is when they’re surrounded with Nature, they paint the whole area and never look into the details. The details are where still life is. I’ve always liked to see things not in the normal way like how the ‘turon’ looks inside out.”
She deconstructed the turon and the bagnet dish. Instead of presenting the turon as a handsomely plated, glowingly caramelized merienda, she uncovers the spring roll wrapper and presents the slice of banana sideways.
For the bagnet, she subdivides the canvas into the dish’s healthier veggie ingredients and sets aside a “cubicle” for the thick, fatty slabs of pork. She says, “Food and cooking have always been part of me as well. It’s art, too, a lot of art.”
The two also pay tribute to the café’s serving staff with Ramos’ “Waitress Waiting” and Abuga-a’s “Waiter-ception.” At the exhibit opening, Ramos was heartened to see the waiters “discussing our works when they were already hung up on the wall. That’s what I like—for my art to engage people. And to think that these were just still lifes, yes?”
The café life
They are more than still lifes. They are reflections on what is making Baguio a mecca for visitors as the recent long weekends attested. One reason is café life. These venues, Ramos says, are “great places for hanging out, meetings, discussions.”
Abuga-a agrees: “Cafés are a good place to be with people or even to go solo. A café has its own way of making people belong when you go to those places.”
“Duha sa Dua” runs until Oct. 10.