A darkness that is both physical and psychological pervades the montage of grainy, monochrome photographs that introduce Ben Ali Ong’s latest body of work, This flood of love drowned me.
A sense of the surreal, with the mystique of an underlying cryptic narrative is palpable in his evocative photographs integrating aspects of the real and the imagined that he tempers and collages into images that are beyond usual photographic genre classifications.
Film noir and automatic writing are significant influences for the photo-artist who delves into the inner reaches of the psyche and of literature and philosophy, sourcing enigmatic titles that extend his imagery. Titles as equivocal as ‘And this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart’, or ‘Under the weight of the lives I’m not living’.
Ben Ali Ong does not shoot to document an accurate image but to delve with his lens for the mood, the psychological sensibility; to paint with light, to find the poetry and mystery within an image or conflation of images.
The artist 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. The artist notes: “For the Chinese, writing and painting have much in common. The “art” of calligraphy is not only the formal beauty of the characters, but the expressive feeling and mastery that informs each stroke. These ideas are present in all of my practice; the idea of poetry, inspiration from writing etc…”
Ben Ali Ong is a Sydney based photo-artist of Chinese and Persian heritage 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.
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 Moran Photographic Prize and the Blake Prize.