Enter the Multiverse of Jason Montinola

Over nearly two decades, Jason Montinola has been creating an imagined universe, with portraits referencing the Middle Ages, the Renaissance periods, and more.

Lala Singian

Lala Singian

Philippine Daily Inquirer


Artist Jason Montinola. PHOTO: RG Gabunada/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

October 30, 2023

MANILA – When you walk into Jason Montinola’s studio, the sculptures and paintings lining the walls seem to awaken. In a corner, easels carry works-in-progress of a masked man carrying a crucifix, and an older portrait of a harlequin.

Resting on the shelves, skulls wearing Venetian masks ooze out tentacles. The artist tells us the sculpture’s background: The mask was thrown into the ocean in the 1800s. Under the sea, the octopus found the human face covering. Then, it assimilated its gelatinous body.

Through the art he creates and the figures he freezes in time, this is what Jason Montinola seems to do: He tells stories.

A Practice Crossing over Fiction and Art History

Over nearly two decades, Jason Montinola has been creating an imagined universe. Using centuries-old oil painting techniques, the portraits reference the Middle Ages, the Renaissance periods, and even before the 5th century.

While many of his portraits mirror his fascination with the arcane, Montinola also takes from more contemporary times. He works from his obsessive interest in the documentation of world encyclopedias. Much of his inspiration comes from the lexicons of “Lord of the Rings” writer J.R.R. Tolkien, where every tree and rock has a name. Give “The Silmarillion” a try and you’ll know what I mean. Many works also hold symbolic religious meaning.

Like with every world, it is not perfect. The artist says, ““May divisions kasi yung mundo. Ginawa ko yung heroes, villians sa kabila. May grey area.” (“There are divisions in the world. I made heroes, villains on the other side. There is a grey area.”)

In Montinola’s recent show at Finale Art File, Love, Sin, Salvation and Death, fellow artist and catalog writer Lec Cruz writes how the exhibit, “bridges the gap between myths and our realities; between intangible concepts and the power of art to represent them; between the familiar stories we have told and the narratives we can tell ourselves.”

After finding creative sparks from both solid reality and imagination, Montinola creates his own beings, each with their own fabled stories.

A Vortex of Created Characters

Hang around in the artistic vortex of Jason Montinola, and after a while, you’ll begin to know the quirks, qualities, and histories behind each character he creates.

In recent years, Montinola has been creating renditions of “Here Lies the Painter.” Going by an epitaph instead of a name, the character takes on the form of a nun, often faceless. While seemingly human, the character is actually a genderless creature. It is eternal, living throughout the centuries. Its role is as a muse to artists throughout history. Montinola tells us that the creature brings out inspiration from under its cloak. The artist imagines it started working with the first cave painters. Later, it presented the monsters in the gardens of Hieronymous Bosch. He says it is the original source for the inventions and sketches of Leonardo Da Vinci—working all the way to the ground-breaking Dadaist work of Marcel Duchamp.

scroll to top