RONALD VENTURA (B. 1973)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
RONALD VENTURA (B. 1973)

Voids and Cages (Untitled)

Details
RONALD VENTURA (B. 1973)
Voids and Cages (Untitled)
signed ‘Ventura 13’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
213.5 x 152 cm. (84 x 59 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2013
Provenance
Perrotin Gallery
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
Hong Kong, Perrotin Gallery, Voids and Cages, April-May 2013.

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Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

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Lot Essay

“YOU CAN SAY THAT MY WORKS REPRESENT A GLOBALISED FRAME OF MIND AS I FREELY APPROPRIATE AND MIX ELEMENTS ACROSS DIFFERENT CULTURES AND SOURCES… I BELIEVE AN ARTIST SHOULD BE ABLE TO TRANSCEND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES AND BECOME CITIZENS OF THE WORLD.”

Filipino Artist Ronald Ventura’s artistic manifesto is driven by the paradoxical synthesis of visual imagery into individual montages, to create an interconnection between various entities that reflects the globalized postmodern condition that we live in today. Each work combines disparate elements of both iconography from popular culture and rich historical signifiers in an elaborate layering of both images and styles, ranging from video game characters to art historical references.

This present lot is an excellent example of Ventura’s ability to execute highly complex compositions in his distinct hyperrealistic style. A monolithic birdcage teems with writhing bodies, limbs, torsos and a serpent-like appendage, contorted and twisted through one another, as if fused into one entity and it is almost impossible to see where one ends and the other begins. The figures may have human-like bodies, but many of their faces appear inhuman, or are obfuscated by gas masks. For Ventura, the body is a subject of fascination and often a way in which he expresses the visual manifestation of our own psychological struggles. In this work, the bodies become a liminal space of negotiation between identifiable social conventions and the effects of the mutable landscape of the contemporary.

Untitled (Birdcage) bears very similar characteristics to Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens’s Der Engelsturz (Fall of the Rebel Angels), which depicts an apocalyptic war in heaven, as described in the biblical book of Revelations, between the angels led by Archangel Michael and those led by Satan, who takes the form of a dragon. The references to the Old Masters in Untitled (Birdcage) are much less literal than some of the other works in his Voids and Cages series, but Ventura still articulates the same dramatic Ruben-esque opulence. Much like in Rubens’s painting, Archangel Michael is suited in his classical armor, his flaming sword raised above his head, ready to cast Satan to earth. However, in Ventura’s version, this biblical character is bestowed with the pate of a two-headed dog. Such paradoxical combinations of pagan and Christian imagery are one of the larger hallmarks of Ventura’s paintings, referencing the complex history of Filipino culture pre-colonisation when locals worshiped a pantheon of deities and spirits which could inhabit and transform the human body, speaking to the cultural shifts in history and time.

The largely monotonous shade of sepia with reddish undertones deployed in Untitled (Birdcage) further evoke the ideas of memory and the passage of time, but also suggests a deliberate method that the artist uses to highlight certain elements within the work. What immediately stands out within the writhing mass are two creatures that resemble Red and Chuck from the popular mobile game Angry Birds. Including them in such religious imagery, perhaps makes parallels between our contemporary ideologies of religion and that of the past, or on the other hand, enhances the fantastical nature of both video games and religious ideas – one can never always be certain with Ventura.

This, as well as Ventura’s use of fragmentation and visual pastiche, brings to mind the work of Chinese artist Jia Aili, who is known for his paintings that assemble pieces of images he has seen in the real world with that of subjective perception to fabricate surrealist landscapes that delve into Jia’s own private world of hidden meanings and narratives. In Towards the Chaotic Reality A Conversation with Zhu Zhu, Jia explains “…no matter how objective history seems to be, volumes of secrets must be buried beneath the surface. It will always be worthwhile to unearth the hidden meanings. The hidden narratives are what I am after.” However, unlike Jia, Ventura investigates the idea of identity, by juxtaposing images that interact with one another and create new and relational meanings that expose truths about our lived realities.

A cage is usually used to contain things, but in Ventura’s instance, the cage bars are not continuous, drifting in and out of visibility. The cage acts as a visual device to render it discordant and surreal: white voids have been painted into and between the bars, while some seem to pierce through the figures and forms. Rather than an enclosure, the cage acts as a form of erasure, perhaps functioning as a metaphor of how easily the memories of the past can be displaced by ideologies of the present. Ventura’s exceptional painterly technique and profound complexity of Untitled (Birdcage) is a testament to why the artist is acknowledged as a conceptual and technical master.

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