“I will paint and update a painting until I am satisfied. It’s like a film director who is shooting a scene – at certain points he will feel like he needs more extras or more light…it is like a process of addition and subtraction.”
Born in Manila in 1975, Ronald Ventura is a Filipino artist known for bold, iconographic pieces that meld together hyperrealism, cartoon imagery and graffiti. One of today’s leading voices in contemporary Southeast Asian art, Ventura’s artworks are expansive and surrealistic. Characterized with layers and complexities, the pieces are assembled with images from popular culture and Eastern and Western folklore. Often marked with references to consumerism, war and pollution, Ventura’s work seduces its viewers to confront the plights of modern society. Today, Ventura continues to work and live in Manila, Philippines where he is respected as one of Southeast Asia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists of his generation and Sotheby’s is proud to present this work for auction this season.
Ronald Ventura’s Bang is a cornerstone example of a multi-layered painting set in the artist’s signature heterogeneous style. Much of the artist’s oeuvre can be characterized by a dynamic melding of commercial characters woven amongst hyperrealist forms. He employs everyday themes into his art, frequently composing scenes of chaotic disorder involving easily identifiable pop-culture references and comic book icons such as Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty. Often, animals and otherworldly figures also populate his pieces, and this amalgamation of characters offer denser compositions and create a sweeping sense of disarray within his work. References pulled from science fiction, Asian mythology, Western history and Catholicism provide a diversified range of narratives, often rife with implicit social criticism.
In this piece, Ventura showcases a technical and thematic boldness of images and styles, serving as an example of what the artist describes as his ‘layering of realities’. In the center of the piece, as the title recalls, is an illustration of a boy holding a handgun, rendered with the fidelity of a photograph in Ventura’s signature monochrome palette. The graffiti and pop art icons that occur along the sidelines however, contribute to a sense of fantasy, which offset the hyperrealistic composition of the boy. The left of the frame displays a collection of glitch-like pixels patterned across the canvas that obscure the boy’s face. These digital distortions in muted hues are arranged in a whirlwind shape, and upon closer observation, true to the title of the piece, appear to be coming out of the gun’s barrel. These shapes appear intentionally placed on the figure to convey a rippling sense of sound, action and movement surrounding the gun. In the same vein, an alarmed Mickey Mouse caricature is tactfully placed in the bottom right corner, suggesting that there is a certain method to the madness when it comes to Ventura’s compositional choices and demonstrating the artist’s mastery of the layered style.
In direct contrast to the main, monochromatic figure, Bang is punctuated by illustrations of rockets, superheroes, stars and comic book clouds in a dizzying array on the upper right-hand periphery. By juxtaposing these colorful figures in contrast with the main subject, Ventura encourages his audience to re-evaluate the manner in which we perceive images with dark undertones, presenting the subject in a comic-like fashion that coerces the viewer to accept this casual narrative. Ventura’s piece also serves as a testament to the power of images, as the cartoon-esque illustrations allow audiences to first identify and relate to the subject matter, yet the richness and gravity of the boy progressively unpacks a darker, symbolic meaning. This intentional unveiling of an afterthought serves as evidence of the emerging state of our consciousness as Ventura strives to alarm and inspire his audiences with pieces that have complex dimensions and more than just a singular interpretation.
Ventura has been recognized as a pioneering maestro. In 1993, he received a BFA in Painting from the University of Santo Tomas, where, after graduating, he continued to work as an instructor. In 2000, the young artist had his first solo exhibitions, including All Souls Day in the Philippines and in 2001, received the Artist of the Year prize from Art Manila. By 2005, Ventura’s The Human Study series won the prestigious Ateneo Art Gallery Studio Residency Grant in Sydney, Australia. His work, characterized by both visual and conceptual layers, has become a platform to uncover the fraught history of his country which, metaphorically speaking, is composed of a multitude of layers consisting of repeated colonization and significant ramifications on culture and society.
Bang retains the multifaceted nature of Ventura’s opus as he constructs the scene with a broad range of imagery that reveal both a world of fantasy and conflict. This encourages its viewer to re-evaluate the connections between cartoon and reality, questioning the fundamental assumptions of human conduct. It is said that this is how the artist interprets contemporary existence; with a preoccupation for illusion and truth. Bang stands as a strikingly distinctive work that attests to Ventura’s deep artistic vocabulary and conceptual genius.
 “Ronald Ventura: Artworks.” Artnet, Artnet Worldwide Corporation, http://www.artnet.com/artists/ronald-ventura/.