In Contemporary Philippine Art, Ronald Ventura is The Beast
- 19 October 2022
“Ronald Ventura is the embodiment of what it means to be a Filipino contemporary master,” Salcedo Auctions chairman Richie Lerma enthuses, as he reminisces witnessing Ventura’s steady ascent to world recognition – from winning the Ateneo Art Awards in 2005 to eventually showing in the world’s major art centers. Lerma describes Ventura as the “one driver [who] has set the pace for all those who have followed him, remain[ing] firmly in control.” This encapsulates the vibe of his upcoming show Beastmaster, where Ventura predominantly uses his favorite subject – race cars – to portray the dynamics of power and control between the master and his mechanical beast.
To be a beast…
Many artists have been enamored by the allure of the beast. The mythical, the sacred, the fantastical – these creatures have taken form to fill in the void of the unknown, giving reason to concepts and questions that go beyond human comprehension.
To be a beast is to become a subject of awe and wonder. It reveals the virtues and vices of human nature, subtly yet openly, to the discerning. To be a beast is to evoke humanity’s desire to express their most fervid hopes and dreams, and many have endeavored to shape its visual form: from the mythological hybrids of the ancient past to deconstructed figures in the contemporary scene.
To be a beast of Ronald Ventura is to be an amalgamation of what he likes, what he thinks, and what he can do about it. His beasts are composites of powerful complex machines that require an equally formidable hand for dominance and control. His beasts, however, are also perceptive of the elements that seek to decelerate their speed, always defying attempts to curb their power. Ventura revs them all up with his distinguishing baroque strokes and intricate carbon fiber resin castings in this exhibition.
A car driver is in the act of wearing or removing a helmet in Beastmaster (2). This is a safety routine suggesting the driver’s consideration for the risks involved, daring to elude the beast’s power for destruction. The terrible consequence is depicted by a separate untitled canvas, showing the aftermath of a reckless navigation – a beast that has run amok.
Beastmaster (4) reinterprets the mythological sphinx, a majestic guardian and protector of temples, as a Doberman Pinscher, known for being a powerful and muscular canine breed. Ventura’s sphinx is the guardian and master of its tire track-marked urban domain.
Ventura further explores his theme using other subjects. Territorial Crossing is inspired by Christian iconography where the Evangelist St. Luke is symbolized as an ox, often depicted in the Bible as a sacrificial animal. Ventura’s winged ox, however, takes on an aggressive stance as though ready to resist attempts at subjugation.
He also dresses a monkey as an explorer in Beastmaster (A). Inspired by the ‘Bored Ape’ NFTs, the monkey assumes a hunter’s pose that asserts dominance by resting a foot on their so-called trophies. This time, the usual animal trophy is replaced with a banana peel, while beside the monkey is its traditional predator, depicted as a meek sidekick waiting by its side.
Ventura gained critical acclaim for his Human Study series in 2004, which won him the prestigious Ateneo Art Awards and consequently a regional arts residency in Australia. Ventura’s knack for keeping abreast of the changes in society has kept him ahead of the times, setting trends with his signature multi-layering style that has taken him to the art centers of New York, Milan, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.
Ventura’s riveting 2021 piece ‘Beasty Eyes’ went for P17,540,000 at the Salcedo Auction’s The Well Appointed Life sale last September.
The allure of the beast lies in the vast possibilities the human mind can make of its form. This is Ventura’s groove, the lane that gives him the fastest lap time on the track. His distinctive style that fuses art forms, and that seamlessly shifts between classical and experimental techniques and media, enables him to create the inimitable beast – fearless, powerful, and daunting; and Ronald Ventura is its singular master.
“Beastmaster” runs from Oct. 25-November 9, 2022, with previews from Tuesday to Saturday, 9AM to 5PM at the main gallery of Salcedo Auctions (NEX Tower, 6786 Ayala Avenue, Makati City). The online catalogue is available at salcedoauctons.com. For inquiries, email [email protected] or phone +632 8 8230956 | +63 917 591 2191. Follow @salcedoauctions @gavelandblock on Instagram and Facebook for updates.