Lot 42
  • 42

Ronald Ventura

880,000 - 1,280,000 HKD
6,280,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Ronald Ventura
  • Magicaland
  • Signed and dated 2011-12
  • Oil and graphite on canvas

Catalogue Note

Ronald Ventura is celebrated for his vibrant use of appropriation to inspire a dialogue with the audience. The artist’s recent collection of works is reflective of his craftsmanship, and confidence with his desired themes. The current painting Magicaland demonstrates Ventura’s understanding about mankind’s fascination with signs, and symbols.

Ventura’s oeuvre is populated with mythological references. Angels, demons, cartoon characters, and pop icons have all inhabited the artist’s works. The present painting is no exception, for the canvas has transformed into a carnival of souls. A menagerie of strange beasts occupies the narrative, and in their monochrome universe they are all sound and fury, appearing to burst out of the canvas in one euphoric stampede. The carnival has arrived to town, and the fiesta is about to commence.

There is an anarchistic joy that exists within Ventura’s paintings. In chaos there lies rebirth, and this sentiment may be applied to the artist’s body of works too. In Magicaland a myriad of creatures fill the landscape with their energy, pulsating and agitated within the new environment, their presence providing one more clue to understanding the artist’s favoured styles and motifs.

Perhaps more autobiographical than his earlier works, the images in the painting are selected for the personal significance to the artist. It may be said that Ventura wants to revive the painting medium, for he believes art has become commercialized, no longer visually or mentally exciting for the public.

The present work was inspired by 16th century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel’s gravure work, The Fall of the Magician (Fig. 1), which is predominantly a moral fable wrapped in an absurdist tale. Hermogenes the Magician cowers in a room that is crowded with demons and monsters. Nearby St. James is depicted standing in prayer, protected by the hand of God as shown by the golden halo that shines above his head.

Ventura’s contemporary translation of the medieval parable places emphasis on the creatures, with the magician curiously absent from the mayhem. However, this only serves to intensify the existentialist undertones that exist in the painting. Magicaland also makes reference to the artist’s heritage, notably Filipino festivities that are a unique pairing of Roman Catholicism with local animist traditions. Ventura’s magician is a product of his generation. He is an individual who the audience can empathise with, and more importantly, may relate too.

Within his oeuvre, Ventura has expressed a vivid interest in collecting random odds and ends that are given a new life in the contexts of his paintings. The images that inhabit Magicaland are part of this makeshift family, with some being familiar faces in the overall collection of paintings. Earlier works such as Eye Land (Fig. 2) provide further insight into the symbols that have become the building blocks for Ventura’s personal history.

The dishevelled orgy of shapes dominating Eye Land is a metaphor for islands, and human alienation. Growing up in the Philippines, islands held their own unique allure, for the country is many islands linked together to create a single government. However for Ventura they represent something cast off, and subsequently orphaned from their surroundings. A few of the images appropriated in that painting may be found in Magicaland too. It is a revealing glimpse into the iconography that makes up the artist’s blueprint. The painting commands a dialogue on what is fact, and what is fiction, where does art end and magic begin— Ventura continues to challenge the audience to solve these riddles for themselves.

Though his narratives are eloquent with imagery, and iconography, Ventura’s recent works have shown the artist to be experimenting with a minimalistic colour palette. The world in Magicaland perfectly exemplifies this aesthetic. Drawn in variants of grey, the creatures are bustling within their black and white landscape, bodies moving towards a location that is out of sight, their destination merely one more riddle for the audience to solve.

Similar with the use of punctuation in language to emphasize meaning, the colours found in Ventura’s works deliberately draw attention to important arcs in the storyline. Therefore the woman who breathes fire in Magicaland is elevated in her role within an otherwise monochrome space. She is ultimately Ventura’s version of the golden haloed saint from Bruegel’s medieval print. Transformed in her splendour to represent the artist’s symbol of hope, the woman’s flames glow brightly amidst the black and white din.

Magicaland is a medley of art history, pop culture, Filipino customs and traditions. A visionary in the guise of an artist, Ventura continues to tear apart paradigms and cultural norms, with a happy abandonment that is evident throughout his oeuvre.  The painting is ultimately a visual allegory where rhyme and reason collide playfully into one another, and he as the painter is the mastermind behind it all.