- Ronald Ventura
- Signed and dated 2014
- Oil on canvas
The present painting Uproar is a continuation of the artist’s exploration of the physical environment as seen through a surrealistic-inspired framework, the two characters representing the breakdown of the man and beast co-existence. The woman who has the head of a lioness is juxtaposed with the male lion, one individual embodying the duality of reason and instinct, while the other is solely animalistic in nature. Perhaps a more introspective piece from Ventura’s oeuvre, for Uproar is largely absent of the cartoon figures that frequented the past works and established the artist’s career for his clever play of pop culture references paired with his animated painterly style. Instead it is these two figures who dominate the composition, their interaction the driving force of the painting.
The few cartoon figures that are present appear separate from the drama of the central figures, almost as if the artist carried them over from another painting, the characters a happy accident in this strange world. Uproar is from the new series titled The Hunting Ground, and represents a change of direction in his favoured motifs and aesthetics. Ventura is seen to be deviating away from the animated universe of Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty, and now embracing the living world of the animal kingdom.
“I am exploring the paradox of how animals are being tamed into becoming more and more like humans. While humans are becoming more and more animalistic, and more reliant on the basest of instincts”, the artist said.
Ventura’s past works prior to Uproar show the artist analysing the relationship between modern society and the natural landscape. The artist often employs cartoon characters to provide humour, and in Uproar the cartoon characters’ presence defuse the tension between the woman-lioness and lion. Earlier paintings from his oeuvre oftentimes have cartoon characters to bring a touch of comedy to the works that are filled with a bedlam of mixed characters all seeking to take lead in the narratives. Much of Ventura’s paintings are reminiscent of visual allegories that incorporate theatrics and exaggerated personalities to communicate their message with viewers.
Channeling the spirit of fantastical creatures such as the Minotaur and the mermaid, Uproar makes reference to figures from ancient stories, beings whose hybrid bodies both repelled and attracted mortals to engage with them. They are now subsequently a fixture in the human psyche. Similar too with the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which has the character Nick Bottom magically transformed to have the head of a donkey, and thus establish himself as the comic relief in the story, Ventura’s two characters in Uproar can be perceived as exaggerations of human beings’ perceived faults and follies. The woman and lion represents the artist’s thoughts on why society has become seemingly stagnate, lost in its vanities and desires, unable to evolve to become better versions of their animalistic selves.
As myths have the power to educate, and so do the central figures in Uproar, their presence both arresting and terrifying to witness. Amidst them is a lone owl who may be the painting’s conscience, actively engaging with the audience from this strange world. While chained to the tree branches are other birds, oblivious to the outside viewer and distracted by the frenzy of their environment. The woman-lioness is surrounded by a crystal formation that radiates from her being as an aura of geometrical light. An allusion to technology and human being’s dependancy on modernisation, the female figure represents logic and order. Whereas the lion embodies human being’s want to tame wild animals, trying to pacify their primal nature. Thus by silencing the lion’s role as King of the Beasts, and transforming him into a kitten version of his feline self, Ventura is actively commenting on society’s need for control.
The title of the current work further plays with semiotics and human emotions. Uproar may reference the sound of public distress that a community has towards a perceived wrong. However, it may also be a literal description of the woman-lioness’ actions, with her face gazing towards the sky and her mouth open in a mid-roar. The audience only able to imagine the deafening cry that vibrates in this dystopian universe that she inhabits, and thereby the envisioning of her howl serves to deepen the drama that is unfolding in the painting.
Compared with Ventura’s earlier oeuvre punctuated with cartoons and pop culture appropriation, Uproar can be seen as an extension of his latest paintings that pair animals with humans, and thrusts them into peculiar worlds where rhyme and reason no longer exist. He is known for his narratives that upon first look appear as animated interactions between a bevy of creatures. However it is with closer inspection that it becomes apparent there is a disconnect amongst the beings, and it is their isolation within the crowd that reveals the artist’s underlining message of the importance to have mutual understanding. The present piece continues with this theme of connection amidst a seemingly disjointed world. By finding inspiration in mythology and the human imagination, Uproar succeeds to teach about the values of life, and to have respect for all creatures great and small.