Artereal Gallery is proud to present Songs to the Moon, a solo exhibition of new photographic works by Sydney-based artist Ben Ali Ong. Known for a black and white photographic practice defined by a subtle lyricism, Ben Ali Ong has established a reputation for creating bodies of work which juxtapose brooding dream-like imagery alongside minimalist abstract pieces recognisable for their poetic restraint. Often blurry, grainy, scratched or heavily distorted through chemical processes – Ong’s pictorial choices appear to be made completely at random, creating a disjointed and surreal narrative.
(To view & purchase artworks from this series scroll to the end of this online exhibition page).
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.
In an era dominated by Instagram and snapchat filters, a world in which photoshopped images have become the norm, Ong’s works are part of a lineage which celebrates and explores the magic and mysteries of film, where manipulation is a deliberate creative process that emerges from scientific experimentation within the alchemy of traditional photographic practice. In creating recent works, Ong has embraced the imperfections and flaws inherited when working with old and expired vintage film – the happenstance marks of mould, scratches and dust indirectly documenting the passage of time.
“I am a big fan of abstraction. But I think with photography, and trying to mimic the abstract painters I admire so much, it usually falls short. Or becomes nothing more than just what it is, an imitation.
So instead I have been really interested in pushing the boundaries of the medium of photography and the notions of what a photograph is in the classical sense. I’m hoping this achieves the same feeling that I admire so much in abstract art, being not literal or representative of any kind of reality that we consider “normal”. I feel photography is always locked into that since we take from the real world. But I’m more interested in symbols and feeling, something outside of this physical world.
In my 2017 series This flood of love drowned me I had a few large-scale abstract photographic pieces, and since then I have found myself wanting to create more of those. A series of almost indecipherable images. But using ‘photographic’ techniques or elements like motion blur, grain, and how I left in the sprocket holes in the film with these and used that in the composition. The intent was to not hide that they are photographic in nature, in fact celebrate the tactility of the medium, but present discordant indecipherable images. In the same vain as the great abstractionists. Something minimal, meditative and ethereal by pushing the photograph to the limits of its legibility. This is a language of blur, motion, scratches, light leaks, dust, graininess and stains.”
Ben Ali Ong, 2020
Ben Ali Ong is a Sydney-based photo-artist working predominantly across photography, video and mixed media. Ong has been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions for over 15 years 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. His work can be found in numerous public and private collections including the Macquarie Group Collection and the Queensland Centre for Photography collection.