To most Cubans, the 1990s brought us a time in our lives that few could have imagined. Sandra Ramos, who was born in 1969, 10 years after the triumph of the Revolution, and who grew up in a context of wholehearted enthusiasm sponsored by ideology. This childhood would be put to the test in the artist’s own poetics, subjected to doubt and to uncertainty.
The artist has expressed throughout the amazing world of images that she has produced over two decades is far from demagogic, basically for bringing in the intensity of a memory that is put into play especially in the realm of the symbolic, from which a great deal of nostalgia emanates as well as a great desire for transformation–forces which in the visual space conspire to charge it with veracity and emotions.
The starting point of this adventure can be established in 1993 with Manera de Matar Soledades (Ways to Kill Solitudes), her first solo exhibition comprised of twenty-five engravings, first shown at the Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales in Havana, and later at the Nina Menocal Gallery in Mexico. One of the engravings of this exhibition would herald what would become her definite link with water: “La maldita circunstancia del agua por todas partes” (The damned circumstance of water everywhere). The title was taken from a poem by Virgilio Piñera. The island, the body-earth, was feeling harassed by the tide and corroded by salt, but at the same time, would never give up the worship of water.
Water would go on to travel with its double-edged meaning, also with the strength of belief, especially when one of her works tells us that “the power of a glass of water can tear down a building.” Water also has to be interpreted, in her visual story, as the main scenario for exodus. And so we arrive in 1994, climactic point of that exodus that she constantly depicts and will experience intensely in an installation consisting of ten suitcases painted on the inside, exhibited under the title Migraciones (Migrations) during the 5th Havana Art Biennial. These suitcases appear as emerging baggage, torn between the playful and the dramatic, showing intimate scenes of the imaginary beings who are to carry them.
The 21st century has seen her evolve in step with the textures of these years, at times surprising, at times disconcerting. Sandra’s work has traveled to different galleries around the world: Barbican Centre in the City of London; Nina Menocal Gallery, Mexico; Ludwig Forum, Germany; I.I.C. Contemporary Art Gallery, Jerusalem; Kunstlerahaus, Graz, Austria; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, and France, Japan, Holland, United States, Spain, Venezuela and Canada. She has been granted scholarships by the Barbican Centre and the Civitella Raineiri Foundation and in Cuba has been the recipient of the National Culture Award, the Grand Prix at the National Engraving Salon and the La Joven Estampa Prize.
No doubt we are dealing with an artist who never falls out of sync with a time that ends up being cruel to the doubtful, a time that does not stop and announces the future as a labyrinth. As an exponent of images, she can be a visionary with a depth that reaches a certain relation with its links with literature, especially poetry, a link that can justify the progression of images in her work.
Always concerned about the balance or conspiracy among the elements involved in the creative process, Sandra gave us the exhibition Las Ruinas de Utopía (Ruins of Utopia) from February to March, 2009 at UNEAC’s Villa Manuela Gallery. Something makes us think that her codes are still valid and enlightening, and that something seems to connect her creative future with the future of many of the people who have decided to stay and live on this island.