By Hannah Jo Uy
Images by Pinggot Zulueta
Perspective has always been what sets Jonathan Joven apart, both as an artist and as a person. As an artist, he explores the possibilities of perspective through distinctive compositions that subtly communicate his unique view of life and the progress of society. As a person, his approach in life, especially in the pursuit of excellence, showcases such an awe-inspiring resilience and tenacity.
“I want to continue my exploration on how to effectively develop and compose scenes through, first and foremost, the use of ‘worm’s eye view,’” says Joven. “My intention is to effectively communicate my social observations through my paintings.”
The view of an object from below evokes a sense of humility. In direct contrast to the birds-eye view, which provides an overarching perspective, the worm’s eye view makes the subject immense, intimidating, and imposing, making the viewer almost childlike or, at times, powerless.
Talking about his evolution as an artist, Joven says that he is committed to constantly adding to his understanding of techniques and mediums. “My confidence and boldness continue to grow as well,” he says.
Touching on the pursuit of a creative life, Joven remains optimistic and calm in the face of its accompanying challenges. “We expect this to be part of our hardships and our lot in life,” he says. “Whatever challenges and difficulties that lie ahead must be faced with a sword forged by the never-ending search for knowledge, excellence, and consistency.”
Joven weaves this approach seamlessly with his fascination for memory and inclination toward nostalgia. With much of his time consumed with rethinking the past, he looks toward quaint snippets of the life that was in comparison to life that we know today. “For example,” he says, “look at these games everyone used to play on the streets. Most of the youth today don’t play them anymore. This is brought on by increasing dependence on gadgets and technology. As a result [these street games] are disappearing.”
These thought processes made their way to Joven’s latest exhibit, “Under the Same Sky,” which was recently unveiled to the public at Secret Fresh Gallery. In this, his second solo exhibition, Joven is presenting a total of six paintings, yet he is also revealing a more experimental approach in the use of other mediums.
“I’m trying new mediums such as installations,” he said. “Such as three-dimensional works that, in my opinion, have the ability to be more effective within my creative process. In my experience, in some instances, this approach was able to better communicate what I wanted to say and what I wanted to show, compared to paintings and the use of more traditional mediums.”
As evidenced by the title, the collection reveals Joven’s views on equality in the larger scheme of things. “I believe that, as humans and as Filipinos, we are all equal,” he says. “We are equal in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of our fellow human beings. I wanted to communicate the feeling of being ‘grounded’ to the spectators. All of us, we all stand on one ground, in one surroundings and we are under the same sky, wherever in the world we may reside.”
Joven’s collection features figurative subjects from all walks of life, often thrown against unexpected elements. We see a snippet of a couple dressed in Cordilleran garb in the midst of a traditional dance, positioned against the overbearing nature of urban high rises under the sky of the iconic rice terraces. Another work that gives off the feeling of industrialization drowning the individual consciousness is the one that showcases two subjects planting rice against the city backdrop. We see their somber expression, and we see heartwrenching details such as the mud and dirt under their feet, souvenirs of a life of honest hard work. We look up at the carefree faces of children in the midst of playing, white streaks alluding to white chalk drawn on the ground during street games, a scene that is now considered uncommon.
“Through these paintings,” says Joven, “I hope the viewers can immerse themselves, somehow, to the message I want to communicate through my works.”