‘Room Service’ Offers Abstract Tour of Local Hotels

Six months after Loven Ramos moved to Cambodia in 2004, he and his wife, who was working at Phnom Penh’s InterContinental Hotel, had a baby boy.

“Our son was born in Cambodia, swaddled in an InterContinental Hotel bath towel in the middle of Kantha Bopha Hospital,” Mr. Ramos said in an interview last week.

Ten years later, the Filipino artist is showing his latest ex- hibition, “Room Service,” at the InterContinental Hotel’s Insider Gallery. The series is a stunning homage to the country’s hotels, which hold a special place in Mr. Ramos’ life.

The paintings and installations, abstract works of varied shapes and colors, reach out and grab the viewer.

His painting “The Birth of a Global Child” is a study in copper and burned gold, painted on stretched denim, with a towel surrounded by a creased InterContinental Hotel bedsheet.

Other evocative figures in the works range from small pink circles in “Dancers at Dawn” to sharp red and blue bands of colors in “Blood Brothers” and a network of mint green, pink and red lines covering the entire canvas in “Intersections.”

There is also “Svay Ken’s Unraveling,” in which copper waves are set below a gray horizon—a work honoring the late Cambodian artist Svay Ken, who began painting in the 1990s while working at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh.

Painted on old hotel linen, bedsheets and room-service menus, the artworks reflect both Mr. Ramos’ personal history with hotels and their role in Cambodia.

“Historical events happen in them, or hotels become unwilling canvas where it happens,” Mr. Ramos said.

It was hotels that enabled Mr. Ramos to make his art known in the Philippines, and hotels that brought him to Cambodia a decade ago.

Although Mr. Ramos always intended to be an artist, he said, “My mom didn’t allow me.” So he studied electronics and communication engineering while painting in his free time.

“No gallery back home wanted to accept my work because I had not graduated from a reputable art school,” the 36-year-old said. “So it was hotels that actually hosted me…. I had my first exhibition in a hotel restaurant.”

After university, Mr. Ramos worked as creative director for a Spanish hotel chain. “When I moved to Cambodia, I came as a graphic designer for a hotel,” he said. Soon after moving here, he set up his own design studio and now specializes in designing promotional material for hotels.

Mr. Ramos’ paintings pay tribute to a number of the country’s most iconic hotels.

Two works on blond, unfinished wood draped in pale gray fabric were inspired by the Amansara Hotel, which opened in 2002 in the former residence of the late King Norodom Sihanouk in Siem Reap City. Built in 1962, it was visited in the 1960s by French President Charles de Gaulle, Jacqueline Kennedy and actor Peter O’Toole.

The work “Secrets Hidden”—golden drops falling against a dark gray background—is a reminder of the Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s strike in the mid-2000s, which pitted staff against management. A second painting named “Secrets Revealed”—reddish brown drops against a pale gray collage—speaks of that hotel’s former employees who went on to become successful business people.

An exhibition on the theme of hotels could hardly overlook the role that the Angkor Archaeological Park plays in tourism today. Hence the painting “The New Empire,” consisting of a hot pink sky set against a charcoal black background with a collage of admission tickets to the park in the top left and bottom right corners.

Mr. Ramos said the work is a reminder that the Sokimex Group, which includes the Sokha Hotels Group and manages ticket sales at the Angkor park, was founded by Sok Kong, the highly successful businessman whose first venture involved processing rubber and producing rubber tires, hence the black in the work.

Mr. Ramos, who in 2011 opened the Hotel and Gallery 1961 in Siem Reap City, recently converted it into an artists’ workspace, both to provide creative space for artists and as a way to develop his own work.

“I always love growing,” he said. “I always love engaging myself with different artists because it has been the only way for me to teach myself how to actually be an artist.”

“Room Service” runs through October 11.

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