Ventura's body language
AFTER HIS TRIUMPH IN THE Second Ateneo Art Awards, Ronald Ventura has mounted a show that confirms his winning was no fluke.
Though we have misgivings about pitting artists in a cruelly competitive manner, Ventura is doubtless in a class by himself, totally devoted to his muse and attuned to the demands of an ever-changing moral universe.
Here, in a show of recent works involving mixed-media techniques, the artist renders the nude as the supreme fetish.
The University of Santo Tomas-trained artist has always struck us as a bravura artist. His experimentations, particularly with the body as main vessel of his art, in both style and substance, are the products of a postmodern sensibility that is constantly mutating and transmuting, where the signifier and the signified are fused, and visual puns take on their most absurd meanings.
In the exhibit "Morph," (West Gallery, SM Megamall, until Sept. 13), the seemingly disparate images are connected by the technology-driven technique of allowing a discourse to take its own course.
In "Basic," for instance, the image of painted jeans ripped sideways to reveal two pairs of legs in motion makes for a double teaser, a thoroughly engaging treatise on the Jungian duality of the body's erotic power.
The same title is used for a much smaller work in oil, a diptych of sorts showing the two sides of the female torso.
Memory is another subject in which Ventura proves most engaging. In "Memory Lost," the male nude is positioned downward, its head replaced by an illuminating object held by the two arms of the figure. Not one to be bothered by facial features unlike artists of realism, Ventura defines the essential as invisible to the eye.
The artist's savage-like rendering of man's anatomical parts has its apotheosis in "Metamorphosis," executed in acrylic and charcoal on paper and canvas. Thighs and legs have been configured in a most surreal mode, fused in a manner Dali would have approved, approximating the symmetry of the two sides of the body.
In a surprising departure from his obsession with the nude, Ventura shows a mock soldier in "Toy Story" in total combat finery, complete with a rifle aimed at the viewer. The artist simply may be testing his ability to clothe his figures as well as he undresses them, and what more felicitous way than to show the most heavily cloaked figure today to signify the terrors of our age.
Turning more melodious in his musings, and proving his ambidexterity with materials and techniques as well, Ventura has a suite of sculptures which he simply calls instruments. These include a horse with two heads, a dog wearing the mask of a centaur, a vase in bronze color and a string instrument salvaged from industrial junk.
This is a show that teases and excites. Ventura has boldly ventured into the aesthetic and the moral. We come out pleased and provoked, disturbed and enlightened.