Frame 61

Alvin Ong

Frame 61
Alvin Ong

“I find myself drawn to the spirit of human encounter, when one being encounters another human presence.” 

Interview by: Natalia Gonzalez Martin

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?

I was born in Singapore, and did my BA at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. I recently graduated from the Royal College of Art and am currently based in London and Singapore.

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?

My current work-in-progress will lie waiting, supported by a pair of improvised primer tubs. There’s my palette, enamel trays lined with foil, laden with prussian blues, alazarin crimsons, cadmium yellows, whites, and fleshtones. I douse and wake my brushes in white spirit. They are exhausted, still hung over from last night. There’s my thinking chair, where I sit to look, and look hard, with my biscuit and a cup of tea. 

My figures seem to be having a good time. They gesture frantically, consuming one another, and also themselves. They gorge and expel. They are very much satisfied and dissatisfied.

Inhale and exhale. I work best in short, intense spurts, so my paintings are often made in very quick succession. And then I leave them. I don’t come in for weeks, or months. I check out what’s on, socialize, travel, jot down ideas. And then I dive back in.

In October, I will move into a new studio space in London, and then in November I’m back in Singapore to prepare for my solo show in January. Its a very mobile arrangement. 

  Black Sesame, 2018

Black Sesame, 2018

  Mountain Cat King, 2018

Mountain Cat King, 2018

The idea of the myth has been explored by different artists throughout time, what is it about it that inspires you? How would you describe the relationship of our contemporary culture towards myth?

I am less interested in specific myths and characters, but rather, I find myself drawn to the spirit of human encounter, when one being encounters another human presence. 

The arms and faces in my work do not belong to a specific individual, but they are made active by holding something, pushing, touching, resting, shoving, grasping and groping. I hope to translate what I see as a sensation that I have experienced in my own body; how an arm feels when it meets another piece of flesh, when skin meets skin; how it feels like to be pricked, or when hairmeets spike; to flit between pleasure and pain; to have a finger, fingers or mouths and orifices voraciously digging into one another.

In this sense, this engagement in the act of making a painting is a very visceral one. At the same time, it is both highly exhausting, and immensely rewarding. In a digital age, it keeps me alive and human. 

You are based between London and Singapore, how does having two main locations (and sources and inspiration) affect your practice and the way you understand it?

Flitting between worlds and cultures makes me look at each with a foreign eye. When I’m in London, I immerse myself amongst the wealth of visual and material culture available here. Back home in Singapore I gorge on its amazing food. These things all eventually find their way back into my practice, like “Mountain Cat King”, which I’ve named after a type of durian.

With the Internet, I find that it matters much less now where one is physically sited. In fact, as I’m typing these answers now I’m in a café in Berlin!

  Night Swim, 2018

Night Swim, 2018

  Smoke Out, 2018

Smoke Out, 2018

  Head 5, 2018

Head 5, 2018

  Head 8, 2018

Head 8, 2018

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

Seeing Dale Lewis’s work in the flesh at the Saatchi Gallery was a definitive moment for me. And in his last solo at Edel Assanti early this year it seemed  like he’s simply exploded and taken it to the next level. 

How do you go about naming your work?

Its a form of translation. A way of groping in the dark for words and teasing them into an arrangement, which offers just enough info without sounding too didactic. 

Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

Currently working towards my solo show at Yavuz Gallery for Singapore Art Week! Opens in Jan next year.

www.alvin-ong.com

Publish date: 02/10/2018
All Images are courtesy of the artist