Texts by Bree Jonson


Much of life happens in sleep. The final flutter of the eyelids, before they drop down to sheathe and blanket the conscious self from the present world, signifies the first swing of a paddle of a canoe in the dark and vast body of water. The journey begins, but the destination is unknown, kept hidden in wares, until the canoe anchors on foreign land. Whatever lies beyond, awaits. What happens often escapes comprehension; scenes of which, while many claim to understand and even interpret, elude meaning. Many theories exist as to why these dreams take place, but the uncanny and unpredictable excursions into the dream world continue to take place. Dreams are highly absurd; they resist meaning, and remain as that, offering the dreamer nothing more.

The absurd is undecipherable, and such encounter often instills wonder. The spectator of the absurd is often left feeling conflicted, trying to grasp the context behind what cannot be explained - an action of which, seems futile - yet, apathy towards it, is an option only the ignorant and the hopeless choose. The absurdity plagues the spectator's mind until he comes to terms with it, for only then can he dismiss such senselessness and move on to his next endeavour - but if one does not arrive at a resolution, then it continues to haunt his mind, masticating through his every thought and impulse, until he becomes silent and still. Alas, such absurdity can only be given shape through its continual shunning of purpose - it is a wonder, a miracle, for what eludes man's understanding, must also be too great for man to understand. And thus spectator, in his silence, continues to watch the absurd except it is not absurd anymore, for it is now a wonder, and instead of feelings of dread and bewilderment, he now feels peace and satisfaction.

It is this process that the viewer is confronted with, upon seeing the works of Jason Montinola. His paintings transform the pictorial space into an oneiric theatre, with him as the playwright; the paintings as the characters; and the spectators as the audience. A writer of his dreams in his waking hour, he has turned his random proses into a visual spectacle of the incomprehensible, arrayed with shape-shifting characters, reminiscent of figures that populate Baroque painting, in the distinctive and imaginative style which is uniquely Montinola's. The absurdity of his works is gripping, and often invites the viewer's attentive scrutiny. Yet, any attempt to understand his paintings, is of futile effort. For the meaning of it is not within the painting itself, but in the personal relationship the spectator forms with it.

In his first solo exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jason Montinola presents the viewers with a glimpse into his subconscious, through his aptly titled show, Theatre of Absurdities. Here he paints of the different human-like beings who began to haunt him after encountering a near death experience in the year of 2012. These beings have their own individual persona, and Montinola paints each of their portraits according to how he has encountered them in his dreams. They consist of: a man with hands forming an enigmatic religious gesture with various objects littered at his feet; beings with faces where different sceneries surface, and curios delicately sewn into their skin; and sketchy ephemeral portraits marking their fleeting presence. The visual curiosities that accompany their sullen, straight faces, are foretelling of their character, and yet when summed as a whole, are still ambiguous and escape from the meaning of their existence. Answers such as what message are they trying to relay, as well as, what are their significance in waking life, continually fleet from the painter. And so Montinola paints them in hope to find an answer.

And to the question of whether he really had reached a final and concrete answer, Montinola responded that it depends. Sometimes the answer is there, sometimes it isn't. The answer is neither concrete, nor is it capricious; it exists, slipping in and out of mind - exposing and concealing at the same time. It is mysterious and compelling, like the characters that they are. The answer is intangible and cannot be comprehended in words. Ergo, the questioning is in the process of painting, and the answer is in the finished painting itself, rien de plus, rien de moins.
 
 
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