Ben Ali Ong

Born in Singapore.
Lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

Ben Ali Ong is an artist working predominantly across photography, video and mixed media. Choosing to work solely in black and white, his brooding photographs are defined by their use of dream-like imagery. Often blurry, grainy and scratched – Ong’s pictorial choices appear to be made completely at random, creating a disjointed and surreal narrative.

Preferring the artworks to speak for themselves, Ong presents them in a manner that allows the viewer to construct their own meanings and interpretations, in order to achieve a state of self-reflection. This idea is concurrent throughout all of Ong’s works and is inspired by Surrealist film and writing. The notion of the artwork being an open-ended fragment with multiple arrangements as well as the potential to convey a subconscious, or spiritual source.

The inherent allure of Ben Ali Ong’s photographs stems from the psychological pull which draws the viewer into each work. Ong’s work has an underlying sense of anguish and sorrow (perhaps even horror) which clings to these black and white photographs. The shadowy, brooding drama and chiaroscuro of the artist’s work captures the delicate interplay between lightness and darkness in a way which acts as a visual metaphor for the vagaries of human existence; alluding to the idea that the beauty and fragility of life are inseparable from the horror and sorrow which accompany it. The resulting emotional pull resonates with and touches some deep inner core which resides within all humanity, transporting us away from our everyday existence. In this way, Ong’s photographs, which are at once both beautiful and frightening, achieve a timeless, unknown, almost half forgotten quality or existence which touches upon ideas of life, death and morality.

In his most recent series of works, Ong has abandoned the camera for a series of six large unframed monochrome works. The camera-less prints, among them, All the loveless land and Whatever poetic heritage I have is hers, responding and instinctively tracing the marks and musings from his own inner narrative and personal cosmos. The painterly and spontaneous calligraphic mark-making of gestural abstraction and sgraffito scribbles and scratchings that the artist incises directly onto a blank negative devolve from writing and are exploited for his series of large-scale expressive abstract prints that that run counter to the accepted tenets of realist imagery and precise technical approaches of photographic practice.

Ben Ali Ong has been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions for over a decade and has been a finalist in many prestigious photographic awards including The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award, The Redlands Art Prize, The Olive Cotton Photographic Prize, The Moran Photographic Prize and the Blake Prize. His work is held in numerous corporate and private collections.

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