To coincide with his solo exhibition Nyctophilia, which runs until 1 August 2015, we sat down with artist Ben Ali Ong to talk about surrealism, Daido Moriyama and the importance of always carrying a camera...
Ben Ali Ong_Nyctophilia 2_2015
Describe your work in 100 words or less.
I am predominantly a photo media based artist, although I have produced works using video and mixed media. Choosing to work mainly in black and white, my brooding photographs are noted for their use of dream-like imagery. Dark, grainy vistas are layered against blurry, distorted objects, animals and figures, creating a disjointed and surreal narrative.
Preferring the artworks to speak for themselves, I present 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 woven through my work, which is also inspired by Surrealist film and writing. I am interested in the notion of the artwork being an open-ended fragment with multiple arrangements, and its potential to convey a subconscious or spiritual source.
Art is my creative outlet. Some people play an instrument, or write a poem. I take photographs.
How has your artistic practice changed over time?
I have learnt to be more honest and confident with myself in regards to the creative process, as well as how I discuss my work. There is a trend that stems from art schools to over complicate things. Artists are expected to create a grand theme to justify their artworks in an attempt to give it significance. You could say this is conceptual or intellectual art, and although that is a legitimate style, it is not representative of ALL of the creative process. I am against the notion that all art practice has to fall into this category. It has taken me awhile to accept that this is not the way I work - not because I think simplicity is a virtue, but because complexity for it’s own sake is a bore.
Ben Ali Ong_Nyctophilia 1_2015
Which Artistic movements or artists do you most identify with?
I have always looked to the work of Daido Moriyama. In the last several years I have also been very influenced by the French Photographer Antoine D’Agata. The artistic movement I most identify with is Surrealism.
How do you work? Can you tell us about your process?
I try to carry a camera of some sort with me all the time. I like to make photographs over a specific time period and when I have accumulated a decent amount I will look over it all and try and find a connection. Ideas develop from there and I may get ideas for specific individual works to make to complete the story or body of work. I keep it all pretty loose like that. I have tried to force it in the past and it doesn’t work for me. It does for some people but I can’t do that. It just happens or it doesn’t’.
If your work was a…
Smell... it would be wood.
Meal... it would be something simple but nourishing.
Ben Ali Ong_Nyctophilia 14_2015