Lot 1036
  • 1036

Ronald Ventura

900,000 - 1,500,000 HKD
7,880,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Ronald Ventura
  • HALO
  • Signed and dated 2013
  • Oil on canvas

Catalogue Note

An artist’s collection of works may very well be seen as a visual history of their growth as an individual, for the narratives mature and change to reveal the development of their thought process and values appreciated. Within a contemporary paradigm this evolution of aesthetics, styles, and compositional layouts, further draw attention to the artist’s interchanging role as that of the observer versus that of the subject, with the latter the one that is being analyzed. The Filipino contemporary artist Ronald Ventura is well known for his liberal appropriation of pop culture imagery that populates the paintings with their larger-than-life presence. Amongst the characters to pass through the artworks, Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty, and Angry Bird, together with circus performers, wild animals, and children, have all graced Ventura’s paintings with their candor and charm. They are a madcap group of beings that are gifted life within the works, and who in turn ground the artist’s imagination in their two-dimensional worlds.

It is a relationship that is inspired by the external reality complimented by the inner reality, with Ventura compiling his personal narrative into a series of pictorial dramas that reveal the man behind the face of the artist. “I try to do something that is inviting to draw the viewer in,” said the artist. “But if you look carefully, you can see something behind. You must look closer to the painting1. Within this vein, the present work HALO may be seen as a visual grouping of the artist’s favored motifs and desired aesthetics. The largest work by him to appear at auction, HALO alludes to the funhouse characters and carnival-inspired artworks that have populated his oeuvre in the last few years. A young girl has a “halo” made from a Ferris wheel that rises high above her head and into the overcast grey sky. Children are a frequent motif within his paintings, acting as both the work’s consciousness, as well as providing an anchor that the audience can relate too in the medley of fantastical beings. HALO is slightly reminiscent of religious paintings that depict saints enveloped in a warm golden light. Ventura’s contemporary interpretation is demonstrative of his personal history, as well as the belief that self-enlightenment is perhaps finding the child within to analyze the world at large. Innocence and hope overcoming the fear and cynicism that adults have come to know and expect.

HALO may be perceived as a landscape painting per se, for the present work draws comparisons with classical marine-inspired paintings that embrace the ocean as a metaphor for emotions and the human psyche. By channeling the natural environment Ventura is subsequently turning his painterly eye onto himself, and thereby sharing with the audience an intimate look into his mind. Ventura’s deliberate choice of including the ocean in HALO touches upon such allusions, and as a recent addition to his oeuvre, the painting provides further clues to Ventura’s artistic development and growth as an artist.

In a Filipino context the presence of the ocean may also refer to the origin story of the country. The myth of Malakas (the strong) and Maganda (the beautiful) tells of the struggles between the sea and the sky, with the god of the sky angrily throwing boulders into the water. However the two gods soon fall in love, with the sky and sea merging into one entity, and the boulders transforming into the islands that form the archipelago. Thus the country was born from their romantic union. Therefore as a Filipino artist it is understandable for Ventura to make reference to this story as a symbolic representation of his own development as an individual. “There is no such thing as new. We just discover something by looking at it a different way,” he said2. Therefore to find inspiration within mythology is ultimately to find meaning in his own existence, for as a Filipino artist Ventura’s self-identity begins with his nationality.

Ventura has referenced religious themes in his past works as well, though they are oftentimes under the guise of satire or heavily masked behind the bevy of characters that inhabit the paintings. However it is the artist’s choice of titles that elevate the paintings from their popcorn and Disney worlds, and bring an honesty and truth to the fictional narratives, thereby allowing the audience to comprehend the messages hidden beneath the layers of images and scenarios. HALO shares similar characteristics, for amidst the balloons, lights of the Ferris wheel, and neon colors, the painting is a depiction of a young girl with her face in her hands and her body turned away from the audience. It is a private moment of quietude and perhaps adolescence angst, for amidst the cacophony of images, the young girl is seemingly lost and overwhelmed by the activity around her. Therefore Ventura is playing once more with language, for by deviating away from the positive connotations of carnivals, he is revealing the shadows that exist alongside the flash and lights of the funhouse games. 

Therefore the present painting reveals itself to be a work filled with many facets of meaning, for as an artist he is again referencing children as the narrators of the artworks, their presence stabilizing the imaginary creatures within a framework that the audience can relate too. However as an individual, Ventura’s choice pairing of the young girl and the vast ocean underlines the psychology of the painting that belies its colorful narrative. As a Filipino artist he draws inspiration from his own life stories, and these dramas serve as the inspiration for the works. HALO therefore may be seen as a culmination of Ventura’s experiences as an artist growing up in the Philippines and educating himself with Western art history and trends, and applying this hybrid of aesthetics and styles into his own artworks. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “Art is not a making-oneself-understood, but an urgent understanding-of-oneself. The closer you get in your most intimate and solitary contemplation or imagination (vision), the more has been achieved”.3

1 Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, "A Filipino Artist's Fantastical Vision, Finely Crafted", International New York Times, Arts Section, published November 4 2011

2 Igan D'bayan, "Ronald Ventura crosses into New York", The Philippine Star, published September 7 2014

3 Ulrich Baer ed., Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters on Life, The Modern Library, New York, 2005, pg.89