Ronald Ventura’s latest suite of works, produced at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, examines how humanity relates to the environment, and how we often leave in our wake, a trail of destruction. Recyclables is Ventura’s show of lithographs, cast paper sculptures and paper relief on canvas produced from the discarded waste of urbanity, which he has recycled into a visual mélange of apocalyptic tales drawn from historical events and images found in popular culture.
Having begun exploring the elemental correlation between man and nature in the Zoomanities mutant sculpture series in Metaphysics of Skin (2009) at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, Recyclables furthers Ventura’s pessimistic investigations into environmental sustainability, then predicts our failure in doing so. Like hypothetical road signs identifiable to road users as hazard warnings, flamboyant triangular orange road signs in Ventura’s Point of Know Return series (2012) seem to display prophetic inclinations towards impending doom. Taking on the guise of the black-and-yellow Australian road signs, these aluminium plates, embellished with cartoon characters, skeletons, birds of prey and gas masks in lithography, consider the irreversible consequences of a fragile ecosystem thrown off balance and the prospect of a contaminated earth rendered unlivable by its own inhabitants. An installation of gigantic papier-mâché sculptures resembling fairytale toadstools, Broccoli Cloud (2012) offers, in this context, a more sinister interpretation of a potential nuclear fallout.
Consequently, the show’s grim imagery tends – inevitably – to coalesce around combustibles and exploding mushroom clouds, mitigated only by the presence of two series of works that seem to reference the arboreal archetypes in proto-religious beliefs. Into the Woods (2012) is a series of paper casts and imprintings of traditional Filipino wood panels and furniture, now reworked into a collage of paper trees. A curious mix of abstract and animistic objects are either imprinted on their paper trunks, or wedged between their branches and roots, evocative of the cosmic symbolism and the primitive conception of sacred trees on which founding myths are established. Like Into the Woods, Shadow Forest (2012) exhibits a similar idea with elegiac intensity, where small cast paper tree sculptures are first mounted on linen canvas then back-lit, resembling portions of primordial landscape and sacred elemental configurations.
Like a threshold into a deeply spiritual or psychological realm, Ventura’s Edenic trees appear to offer a brief respite from the repeated rhetoric of mass destruction, and to walk in his enchanted forest is to walk into a strange world so far removed from its primeval beginnings. Seen in the light of Recyclables’ other installations, these works are also reminders of corrupted nature, where resource management is defined by and measured in weights, transactions and treaties.
Born in 1973 in Manila, Ronald Ventura earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the royal and pontifical University of Santo Tomas in 1993, and now lives and works in Manila. Ronald Ventura: Recyclables will be on show at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute until 15 December 2012.