Monday, June 27, 2011

Jose Ventura - storytelling with paintings

By Ica Wahbeh
AMMAN - Once upon a time… the storytellers go.
José Ventura does not tell his stories in words, but his “Appasionato” exhibition at Foresight32 Art Gallery immediately transports the viewer into his fantastic world of fairy tales, fantasy, mystical or romanticised reality and of funfair every child (and grown up) loves to immerse himself in.

In the tradition of many Latin American novelists, this Salvadorian-born Canadian artist creates a colourful, dream-like universe of musicians, revellers, street performers, lovers and fantastic creatures that belong to the world of imagination rather than to the drab world surrounding us.

Looking more like illustrations from a book of stories, Ventura’s paintings are filled with creatures feelingly playing instruments, dancing to their sounds, floating, cherub-like, with grace, defying gravity, making offerings of fruit or flower, gazing adoringly at each other or at the viewer, and enchanting with their candid looks and postures.

It is a world where angels cohabit with humans, street performers and musicians find eager audiences, animals, birds and phantasmagorical creatures come together - a child’s universe come true.

The sea is almost ubiquitous in this artist’s works, providing the background for barges and ships, for lovers, for mythical creatures (Minotaur, mermaid, harpy), goddesses (Venus, Artemis), flying angels, fish, naked women, an assortment of buildings, “smiling” or eclipsed moons, and an abundance of fruit and musical instruments.

It is a bounteous world of continuous celebration, of Cupid-stricken lovers and bright colours.

Influenced by his stay in Jordan, the artist adds a hubble bubble here and there, veiled women, clothes straight out of the 1001 nights, arched, columned windows; Latin America meets the Orient in a happy marriage of images and characters.

Love seems to permeate all this world Ventura seems to wish upside down, for, reality is quite different, gloomy and cold. This desire is perhaps better expressed in “Falling for her”, a painting where a young man is actually “falling” down a ladder to kiss the girl lying on the ground amid flowers - a reverse Romeo who needs to climb down to reach his loved one under the pale crescent moon.

Ventura is a complex artist. In 1996, with a partner, he created the carved glass panels that make up the entrance of St. Andrews Wesley church in downtown Vancouver. In 1998, “striving to express his vision in his highly personal, playful way”, he started to paint on ceramics. Since 1975 he has held 12 solo exhibitions in Regina and Saskatoon-Saskatchewan, Edmonton-Alberta and Vancouver-Canada, in addition to being part of 13 collective exhibitions in Canada, Paris, Mexico City and San Salvador.

His ceramic pieces - plates, vases, bowls - are populated by the same characters found on his canvases.

Shiny glaze reveals a world of birds, sea life, animals, ships, flowers and the ever-present woman with long, wavy hair and graceful bearing. Ships drift, people and birds fly, the colours are dazzling, the universe uplifting.

A few metal cutouts are projected against the window, reinforcing the feeling that one is a character in a book, surrounded by beings of a dream world where everything is possible and life is a perpetual merry making.

Jose Ventura now lives in Hopkins Landing

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