Lot 1082
  • 1082


900,000 - 1,500,000 HKD
4,320,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Ronald Ventura
  • Stripes
  • signed and dated 2017
  • oil on canvas
  • 183 by 122 cm; 72 by 48 in. 

Catalogue Note

“Ventura carries his thematics further by taking a stand against speciesism which is the belief that the human race is superior to other species and that exploitation of animals for the advantage of humans is justified. Instead, he plays on the interchangeability of human and animal, rejecting specieist privileging. [The artist’s creatures] possibly signify… the assertion of unconscious and non-rational forces over reason and logic.”1 Ronald Ventura stands as one of Southeast Asia’s most acclaimed artists of his generation. Throughout his extensive oeuvre that dabbles in both paintings and sculptures, Ventura strives to unpack the complex dimensions of society and reassemble them within narratives in ways that simultaneously alarm, foment, and inspire his audiences. These impressive works directly challenge viewers’ perspectives, thereby encouraging them to re-evaluate the manner in which they currently interact with their environment. Just as contemporary art can be seen as an appropriation and distillation of current realities, Ventura employs everyday themes into his art. Stripes, a sensuous and provocative work, exemplifies some of the seminal strengths of the artist’s monumentally astounding compositions.

Much of the Filipino artist’s oeuvre can be characterized by the frequent involvement of pop-culture references – including characters like Mickey Mouse, Angry Bird and Hello Kitty as well as non-human forms such as animals and otherworldly creatures. Ultimately, however, Ventura’s loyalties lie with questioning the human psyche. The present lot is a recent painting that marks a departure from the artist’s previous series of works which were often denser compositions and amalgams of subject matters. Instead, Ventura here chooses to focus on two main figures, a woman and a leopard, that occupy most of the canvas. He maintains the hyper-realistic style he is renowned for, demonstrating his immense skill in capturing the minute details, even on such a large work.

The present lot features a woman, standing proudly on the left, and a leopard sitting majestically on her right. Ventura employs a largely greyscale palette, alternating the black and white spaces with occasional strips of brownish reds that cut vertically across the painting. The leopard and the female figure appear to occupy different spaces and scales of perspective. Yet the artist weaves these two figures together as the brown strips undulate and break up the forms, diverting one’s gaze and creating a spatial ambiguity in the image. Visually stimulating and formally playful, the lines which are layered and patterned across the canvas deliver a certain gravitas.

The title, Stripes, recalls many elements that Ventura has integrated into the painting, such as the spots and stripes of the animal’s fur, the stripes on the bottom garment of the woman, or the literal stripes that cut through the entire canvas. Beyond the obvious stripes within the subject matter, the title also echoes the importance of line and strokes in Ventura’s work. Indeed, he takes painstaking effort to capture the crevices of the woman’s skin, the folds on her midriff as well as the creases on her neck. True to the effect of hyperrealism, the artist portrays the woman as imperfect and wholly human. Her stance, unapologetic and confident, is at once alluring and admirable. An embodiment of “cool”, the woman exhales a swift breath of smoke, as her aviator sunglasses reflect the silhouettes of faraway surroundings. Juxtaposed against the leopard’s unwavering and direct gaze, her languid air and bold posture bestows the current work with beguiling charisma. Ventura draws a parallel between the woman and the animal, both exuding an air of power, seduction and confrontation. They compel the viewer to discover the fine line between the beautiful and the intimidating.

By employing his signature hyperrealist style, Ventura manages to further blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy. The explicit details allow audiences to identify and relate to the depicted subject matter at hand, yet the artist’s style also undermines any sense of balance or singular interpretations. When commenting on his work, Ventura mentions his fondness for “[layering] different realities”2 as seen in the multifaceted nature of the present lot. In the same vein, the French philosopher Jean Baudillard also believed that hyper-realism is “the simulation of something which never really existed”3. For many of Ventura’s strongest paintings, what is portrayed is in fact an emergent state of one’s consciousness, interacting with one’s perceived reality. What appears before us in Stripes is both illusion and truth at once. The tremendous detail in which the subjects are painted coerces the viewer to accept the portrayed narrative, while the impossible yet intimate placement of the woman and the wild animal suggests the deceptiveness of the composition.

Unlike the easily identifiable commercial characters that populate Ventura’s earlier works, the woman and the leopard in Stripes bear more obscure values and meanings. The artist encourages his viewers to ponder the significance of these figures, their calculated relationships and overall relevance. As a result, the present painting bears a special weight and power, touching upon on our present sense of reality. Over the past two years, Ventura appears to embark on a new direction that focuses on juxtapositions between different creatures. As epitomized in Stripes, he explores the connections and distinctions between animal and human nature, melding them into alternate realities and questioning fundamental assumptions about identity. This heightened sense of introspection offers a softer side of the artist’s works. Stripes is a visually commanding piece that attests to Ventura’s conceptual and technical genius; it stands as a work that anticipates exciting future possibilities for the artist, and delivers his expressionistic force in a refreshing manner.

1 Guillermo, Alice. G, Ronald Ventura: Realities, Damiani Editore, Bologna, Italy, 2011, pg. 70

2 Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, A Filipino Artist's Fantastical Vision, Finely Crafted, International New York Times, Arts Section, 2011

3 Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbor Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1981