The significance of Ronald Ventura's works within the visual landscape has informed a new way of approaching contemporary culture, leading to Ventura's stature as one of the most sought after artists within Asian art today. Ventura is a child of the pop and avant garde-era; the penchant for collaging the "myths of everyday life" which symbolize the illusions and realities of contemporary society is prevalent within his works. Each creation by Ventura is never an individual narrative in itself but rather a synthesis of disparate elements, overlaid with the artist's perfect photorealist technique melded with rich signifiers and pop iconography. Ronald Ventura's insight often wanders where others fear to tread, plumbing the unforeseen depths of the human psyche and conveying these liminal mirages to viewers. Pausok is a complex and visually ambitious creation, referencing tropes of philosophy, psychology, religion - but predominantly concerned with the theme of self-realization and inner integrity.
Ventura often articulates a sense of tension or bodily struggle emanating from aggressive physiological renditions of the human form. This painting reveals Ventura's fascination with anatomy and his lengthy studies into the human body, resulting in his facility in depicting it accurately and in great detail. Within this work, Ventura has created yet another superb observation of the human condition, and the complex, magical unraveling to be found lurking within our mental chambers.
An early manifestation of his acclaimed Penitents and Prostitutes series, Pausok represents a penitent who during Semana Santa (Holy Week) joins a procession with other anonymous penitents, with faces covered, publicly flagellating themselves in a ritual of contrition and mortification of the flesh as physical atonement for their sins. Wrapped around his body is a cord, which traditionally, is edged with barbs that eventually cut the skin and draw blood. In most cases, the skin is pre-scoured to ensure the drawing of blood happens more efficiently. On top of the masked figure is Ventura’s iconic cloud form, tumultuous with figures drawn from classical imagery representing the fall of man and other damned souls. These seem to emanate from the lightning like a crown of thorns atop the central figure’s head, perhaps representing the chaos that ensues in the constant battle with one’s personal demons, and the choosing between right and wrong, good and bad. Reinforcing the imagery is the literal spelling out of ‘Impyerno’ or hell, jumbled up in the cloud-like Armageddon.
What has remained consistent throughout all of Ventura's works is his virtuosic technique in figurative painting. His smooth, photorealistic renditions of human anatomy, which first draws the viewer's attention, juxtaposes cleverly with complex interior motifs and details across the painting. The religious ideology exposed to from the Filipino psyche and culture are also represented here, such as the tattoo on the penitent’s chest which is similar to traditional representations found on images of the Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows). This often emotionally traumatic process is fully portrayed by Ventura, his superb photorealist skill giving real physical depth to the painting, from the muscles and sinews of the man's body down to the texture of his skin.
The title Pausok could well be the artist’s perception on the whole scene. Although this act is carried out in public often in the early morning towards mid-afternoon, the precise hours that Christ carried his cross through the Via Dolorosa, or Path of Grief - the experience is intended to be deeply personal and solitary. Pausok literally means ‘to create smoke’, which perhaps is Ventura’s way of referring to the act of public flagellation as a way of creating a ‘cloud of smoke’ to draw attention to the penitent visibly atoning for his sins in a most evident and dramatic way. However, the pertinent questions remain, is this anonymous penitent really atoning for his sins? Or is this all for show and public display? Will this self-administered act of physical punishment prevent the penitent from repeating his sins, or is this a convenient cleanse cycle that allows the sinner to start again from scratch, offering a way towards absolution should the sinner sin again? The combination of these different elements reflects why Ventura is acknowledged as a true contemporary master: an emotional revelation about the power of faith and self-ablution, augmented by his exceptional painterly technique within a single masterpiece.