Binge Watch: Alvin Ong @ Yavuz Gallery, Singapore
It's been over a year since we last featured the increasingly awesome works by Alving Ong, and almost two years after his last solo show with Yavuz gallery in Sydney, he is now showing at their space in Singapore. Continuing the process of self-reflection and introspection through his painterly practice, "Binge Watch (is) reflecting Alvin Ong’s continued interest in the physicality of the body, and how human experiences of inhabitation are being reshaped in the current moment."
In order to depict the everpresent moods of anxiety, boredom, insecurities, and longing, Ong has developed a visual language and technique which transforms most mundane, insignificant moments into evocative dreamy compositions. Reducing the figure to an amalgamation of provisional anatomical forms outlined by the glow of electronic gadgets or other objects that define our being, the Singapore-born artist is particularly interested in the moments when time seems to stand still. Placing them in spaces that are either isolated and safe or crowded and somewhat hectic, his autobiographical visual diary encapsulates the familiar and relatable sentiment of present-day life. "I enjoy this play between domesticity and the ambiguous spaces these figures seemingly inhabit. They reflect my inner journeys and solitude as a painter, but at the same time they also remind me of the communal experiences which make me feel alive and human," Ong told Juxtapoz about how the surrounding influences the mood of the works.
In an effort to capture the frail ambience that is surrounding us and influencing our mental state, Ong managed to sharpen up a great sense for playing with light and transparency. Exaggeratedly bent and captured in declining postures, his protagonists are often blending into their surroundings or are reflecting it on their clothes or skin. Influenced by tropical light of his native Singapore as well as European history painting and Catholic imagery, he devised an effective blend through which everyday moments are transformed into often epochal scenes. "The paintings also function as sonic abstractions, choreographed as an ensemble of contrasting tracks and tempo," the artist explained his work structure and process while making an analogy with another big passion of his - music. "I attribute this quality to my restlessness and a highly improvisational process, often resulting in multiple ideas layered over one another simultaneously on a single canvas like musical ideas in a fugue. The numerous pentimenti, or ideas semi-scrubbed off, scattered here and there also bear witness to my fraught journeys shapeshifting between figuration and abstraction."
His daily cycle which includes playing the piano, listening to music, drawing, cooking, doom scrolling, and binge watching, are some of the main sources of inspiration for this particular body of work. Influencing everything from the title of the show, appearing as obvious elements (Studio, Desktop, Rempah, all 2021), or becoming metaphors for larger problems (Earworm, 2021), these everyday routines sometimes extend into the technical aspect of his practice. "The works on paper are made using turmeric, chilli powder and ink, which are an extension of the culinary and earthy themes running through the other works on canvas, especially when seen alongside Rempah (a Malay word for a base spice mix from which different types of curries are made)," Ong tells us about the body of work on paper that he also introduced in this showcase. Developed as (likely) accidental innovation, they conceptually match the portrayed atmosphere of boredom and solitude while allowing for his interest in experimentation and improvisation to roam beyond customary boundaries. —Sasha Bogojev