spreads courtesy of the artist
EX CORDE by Rodrigo Ramos (Self published, 2015), BUY
The symbiosis of brutality and beauty is one of the most complimentary within art history. Baroque era painters such as Rubens and Carravaggio were masters of this idea, often depicting the suffering of heroes and legends who faced certain death, clashed with legions of adversaries or suffered at the hands of emotional infliction.
Rodrigo Ramos’ Ex Corde (Latin, “From the heart“) follows on within this tradition of narration. Adapting the concept to document conflict and confrontation, he re-applies it to a modern context by way of boxers and professional fighters, carefully snapping their journeys to and from the ring. Inspired both by the Latin phrase as well as the narrative of Saint Sebastian and his fateful martyrdom, Ex Corde presents its subjects in a way that communicates an ineffable beauty and gentleness within the brutish, merciless and harsh world which they are all part of.
The subjects, from a range of ethnic backgrounds and ages, all face the same fate; to be tested by both themselves and their opponents alike. The hundreds of hours put into training and preparation manifests itself through the photographic emphasis on their sculpted muscled and tattooed bodies, readying to take both cut and bruise as they come. The respect of sportsmanship and the importance of ritualistic preparation, earning a triumph and accepting defeat, appear to be all inexplicably intertwined.
For Ramos, it appears that the true depth of the stories lay in the details of their tellers. The attention paid to fragility of fabric for instance, by way of things such as frayed and ragged hand bindings, a blood speckled towel or a pair of stained shorts, not only shock and intrigue but also serve as nods to the subtle technique of Dutch Master’s narration. Though none of their conflicts are explicitly shared within the series, their artefacts impact viewers in an altogether more complex way.
The importance of human contact also serves as a key theme within the series, as Ramos focuses on the fighter-trainer relationship as well as the fighter-opponent one in several of the images. Through something as simple as a hand on a wearied shoulder or the full embrace of contender against his other, viewers are able to embrace the fleeting moment of tenderness within the otherwise hardened arena.
The lighting of the images, off camera, striking and strategically placed, helps to emphasize the importance and zeal of the fighters, as they ruminate, wait and prepare. Nothing can be hidden, and every bruise and scar shines through, while the background bathed in darkness helps empower the cinematic approach taken by Ramos.
The publication, designed collectively by Emiliano Monila, Alejandra Magdaleno and Ramos, over a series of 8 printed diptychs and published within an edition of 500 copies, presents an altogether interactive experience which can be experienced in a way that’s beyond a traditionally fixed artefact.
Written by Dorrell Merritt / Published 11 March 2016