A solo exhibition by Jonathan Joven
All This Glorious Mess
In his third solo exhibition, Jonathan Joven presents “Anggulo,” his new take on perspectives that plays on the direct Filipino translation to the words angle (anggulo) and turmoil (ang gulo). Known for his worm’s eye view paintings, Joven with his latest offering explores divergent perspectives while playing with mixed standpoints and altered proportions.
Arko ng Hangganan portrays a toddler as he escapes on his scooter to a cornfield. While household pets watch by, he slices through bumper-to-bumper traffic to create an arched portal to another world. Innocent, steadfast and focused, he breaks through obstacles as only a courageous child can. Papunta Ka Pa Lang, Pabalik Na Ako may be likened to an out of town trip, where traffic is made up of different modes of transportation on wheels. A child rides a bike with glee and a shark seemingly swims on thin air. The juxtaposition of elements and play of proportions explore scale and define the scene with a surrealist bent. In Sa Ugoy, a seated little girl swings happily with boats on the background, a carabao-driven caretela, an airplane lifting off from the runway, and your normal day-to-day EDSA heavy traffic. Child’s play and utter innocence are posited against land, air and sea travel, perhaps predicting all of the places she could possibly go. Tuwa is another play on positions and direction, as kids enjoying a laugh together seem to be set against a forest canopy and two pairs of adult feet. As the artist includes children, animals and modes of transportation in his works, he further reinforces a sense of play and randomness bordering on chaos. Whether in action or at rest, the artist’s figures on his slightly textured canvases add to a feeling of wonder and the exploration of further possibilities. Stuck in the everyday struggle of everyday traffic, somehow the artist’s subjects find ways to enjoy themselves, and, sometimes, even excitedly make their escape.
Joven also introduces several framed mixed media pieces utilizing tracing paper, layering architectural plans with figures and line drawings from Leon Battista Alberti’s perspective theories to challenge the viewer’s point of view while addressing issues about society and the environment. Tahanan portrays a beggar making the streets her work and rest place, as she has a sole puppy for company. Bangkito piles together different chairs, from a plain plywood bench and humble bangkito to standard-issue school desks and fully-upholstered seats of authority and luxury with their leather covers and embellished wood turnings. Bahay-bahay features a child rocking on a leather chair that resembles a tumba-tumba, while a mansion turns turtle and presents a poorly constructed shanty in its stead. Further expounding on housing issues, Joven also presents Two Stor(e)y, with two carts – one a horse-driven unit peddling and delivering native crafts, the other kariton serving as an improvised temporary shelter for its inhabitants, with protection from the elements provided by what appears to be reused pieces of election campaign tarpaulins.
As Anggulo’s varied directions and intentional disarray present Joven pushing against self-imposed limitations, he drives his and his audiences’ perspectives into more ways of seeing life. The artist’s message, for this show at least, may mean Yes, life can be a mess, but sometimes all it takes is a different standpoint to make sense out of the chaos.
Words by Kaye O’Yek