At the heart of his subversive opus, Manila-born artist Ronald Ventura destroys the foundations of reality and rebuilds it in fantastical, surreal form. Audacious images traverse the artist’s extensive oeuvre, drawing from a universal archive of pop culture, religious imagery and folklore. Popular motifs are displaced into a new, defamiliarized setting imagined by Ventura, conceiving an eclectic mix of hyperrealism with commercial characters. Set in various idioms of high and low art, the densely-packed narratives that frame the maestro’s works are a critical exploration of humanity’s troubling conditions. Ventura’s chaotic assortment of newly liberated images is a disorienting sight to behold, provoking viewers to re-evaluate established conventions under his bold lens. An opus laden with social implications, Ventura’s works are ground-breaking in both skillful ingenuity and conceptual depth. It is thus no wonder the acclaimed visionary holds a top position as one of Southeast Asia’s leading voices of his generation.
Ronald Ventura’s Super than Superman is an arresting scene of layered realities, the abundant disarray echoing the complexity of human life. An inventive syncretism of comic imagery and hyperrealism, the present lot is articulated in the artist’s accessible lexicon. For Ventura, popular images were integral in inculcating a universal quality in his work, “I express all of this through a language that can be understood by ordinary people.” The busy surface revolves around the ubiquitous icon of Superman, rendered in various interpretations scattered across Ventura’s imaginary world. At first glance, the cryptic density of the compositions presents an indecipherable conflict, but a closer attention to the work’s meticulous layering reveals a universe weighted in profound dimensionality.
In Super than Superman, Ventura envisions a surreal fantasy underpinned by comic elements, transforming the massive scene of braggadocio into one of humorous grandiosity. The posing man is presented in muscular enormity, his sheer size encompassing the vast majority of the canvas. Ventura’s fluent dexterity in hyperrealism reveals itself in the bulging veins of the man’s body, his rippling muscles a testament to the maestro’s expertise in recreating the intricacies of human form in minute, exacting detail. The immense gravity of his presence is undermined by the Superman iterations that crash into his figure, crowding the composition and pulling focus away from him. Ventura often sought to prevent an overpowering visual supremacy in his larger-scale works, instead choosing to maintain dense compositions with no distinct hierarchy. Despite its rhythmic dissonance, the painting is divided into two opposing planes of reality, tattooing the man’s body with a comic scene. Capriciously balanced between an imaginary and objective reality, his torso is grounded in a fantasy space and perhaps a sly implication of his perceived strength being drawn from fiction. Under the chaotic mayhem, Super than Superman is a masterpiece of ingenious calculations- the composition, the various figures play a salient role in the dissemination of Ventura’s erudite narrative
In an impressive display of intellectual bravura, Ventura voices a dialogue in Super than Superman that renegotiates the hegemonic concepts of power. Is the man crushing the car with his fists, or is the miniature Superman squeezing the car with his bare hands? The artist impresses the notion of the unknown upon his work, leaving the man’s strength undefined. The performance of uncertainty maintains a level of intrigue and curiosity when experiencing his work, proffering multitudinous layers of meaning for the viewer to consider. Bold, yellow lightning points to his muscles in an effort to accentuate his awe-inspiring physicality, his power manifesting in the undulating wind of the azure blue sky. Yet the speech bubble directly positioned above his arm is a derisive criticism of his perceived force, its succinctly blunt statement, “It Tickles!” is a mocking subversion of his power. Unlike the rest of the Supermans, he is not fitted in their iconic costume, begetting the question – is he not worthy of comparison to famed symbols of power, or is he above their associated branding? Again, Ventura engages in a game of ambiguity that forces viewers to question the origins of power and where it really lies.
Throughout Ronald Ventura’s expansive body of works, the borders of reality and fantasy merge into an indistinguishable point. What was once a bewitching, fantastical vision transformed into an unsettling conveyance of human plight enacted in honest display. Super than Superhuman is a thought-provoking seminal work of art that confronts viewers with a raw truth. An exquisite vision of aesthetics and an arresting message, the masterpiece encapsulates the maestro’s visceral talent and his astute understanding of politics.
 Demetrio Paparoni, Ronald Ventura: Works 1998-2017, Milano 2018, 267.
 Ibid., 293.
 Demetrio Paparoni, Ronald Ventura: Works 1998-2017, Milano 2018, 7.
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