Given more than a quick glance at Filipino artist Jonathan Ching’s paintings, it becomes obvious that his paintings are never simply just paintings. Beyond an outstandingly skillful handling of oil to produce rich impastos and nearly faithful renditions of his subjects on large-scale canvases, Ching pushes past normal expectations with the inclusion of objects, unconventional formats, visual puns, and visual storytelling that appropriates art history. Ching’s paintings of flowers, statues, street corners, photographs, and the like are never of a painter simply copying nature.
A Degas’ painting of ballet dancers partially seen behind lampshades that echo the dancers’ tutus, a metal wing in the middle of a painting of a hotel corridor, real leather gloves placed on a painted sofa with a jockey falling off a racehorse in the background --- Ching seems to enjoy constructing private meaning with his combinations. To viewers, it’s a playground of disjunctions, grabbing their attention and throwing them off. For even as Ching seems to tease viewers to decode his mixed media tableaus, they are impenetrable or impossible to really decipher. His objects and juxtapositions are clues with no clear answers, a strip act that never comes to its conclusion. His inclusion of objects, such as silver pears, copper flowers, and wooden animals, can be surprising as they often blend into the very tactile application of oil paint on canvas.
Many of Ching’s paintings are based on photos he’s collected, some from biking around town. Ching calls finding subjects to paint “special events.” In his reproduction of photographs of flowers and tarps, for instance, the mundane takes on a monumental and otherworldly quality. They are given new plastic bodies. As banal and even sentimental images from photos are reconstituted into his dense and energetic surfaces made of oil and painters’ markings, they exist in their own new worlds, acquiring new life.
Jonathan Ching was one of members of the seminal arts collective Surrounded by Water, an alternative artist-run space in the early 2000s that helped launch the careers of many Filipino contemporary artists. He continues to have solo shows in many renowned galleries including Finale Art File, West Gallery, Blanc, and Tin-aw. Recently, he exhibited a grand large scale painting called “Chrysanthemums” at Art Fair Philippines 2021.