n. A love of preference for the night or darkness.
Ben Ali Ong is a Sydney based artist working predominantly across photography, video and mixed media. His latest body of work Nyctophilia, presents a series of small and intimate photographs, all seemingly unrelated, scattered across the gallery wall in enigmatic groupings.
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.
Dotted intermittently throughout the installation are text based photographic collages, created from a variety of source materials as varied as pages of ancient mystical Persian love poems, to half obscured handwritten letters, to fragmented snapshots capturing the fleeting thoughts and favoured quotes from the artist’s diary. Spliced and torn, obscured and revealed, these text based works nestle between images of hauntingly bleak landscapes, the grit-encrusted glamour of urban streetscapes and fleeting moments of sublime natural phenomena.
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.
Perhaps the most powerful element of Ben Ali Ong’s practice though, is the fact that, unlike many contemporary artists who find themselves caught in a web of intellectualization, Ong’s photographs speak straight from the soul…