Refluent hours

An interview with Beny Ong

I first came across Beny's work at China Heights probably 2 years ago....maybe even earlier but definitely before I had any idea or knowledge in picture making. I remembered at the opening of Broken Beauty. Heights was packed with people and everyone was just admiring the photos and enjoying the beer sponsors' contribution to the night.

Although I didn't know much about photography at the time, those black and white images from the show were very memorable to me even to this day. I really enjoyed the show and admired Beny's work so I was very lucky to got to know him as a mate through a mutual friend's introduction. The most recent show by Beny was titled "Refluent Hours" shown at Blender Gallery.

J: Hi Ben, Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became a photographer?
BO: When I was 15 I moved to Sydney with my sister to live. She was doing figure work for a photo media artist here and he pretty much took me under his wing. So we messed around with chemicals in the dark for a few years, but it wasn’t until I saw ‘Ordeal by Roses’ by Eikoh Hosoe that I properly decided that was what I wanted to do.

J: I first seen your works “Broken Beauty” at China Heights, I was attracted towards your images even though I had no idea how the photos were taken or developed. I just felt your series really had a voice and I was somehow connected to it. Can you tell me what that series meant to you personally and how it all developed as an exhibition?
I see that series as more of a documentary type of thing, I was interested in old or dilapidated environments and buildings; old doorways that lead to nowhere, this kind of stuff. I also followed some graffiti guys around to abandoned factories, actually that’s how it first started really, I should credit them. Thanks guys, you know who you are.

J: I noticed with your last show “Refluent Hours” at Blender gallery, you have developed a more refined direction with your work. It looks a lot more intimate and the scratch patterns looks to be more attached to the subject in order to explore the human psyche, the seemingly fuzzy subconscious. Has that pattern become part of the narrative with your work or was the scratch a form of execution to how you want the new works to be presented with the audience?
Thanks. With this series, I am presenting the images as triptychs, combining a landscape or exterior ‘environment’ with a portrait. I wanted to extend this layering effect not just through the imagery, but also through the negative itself. I think the patterns have very much become a major part of the work I’m making now. Aesthetically my intent was to make them look like etchings.

Image from the Broken Beauty series.

J: I know you are a bit of Bill Henson fan. Would it be presumptuous for me to say his work has an influence to you as an artist?
BO: I have been following Henson’s work since I first began photography, yes.

J: How do you feel about Bill Henson’s latest works being so heavily criticized by the media and law enforcement….Do you think it would degrade the quality of work by other young Australian artists that are willing to showcase in the future with their own reputation in potential social and legal hot waters, if their work was deemed inappropriate or lack of a better word “revolting”?
- I am choosing my words very carefully here, but I agree that the whole situation will inevitably have a negative effect on not just Bill Henson but all artists in Australia, especially those dealing in difficult subject matter.

J: Can you tell us who has influenced your work past and/or present and how you come across their work in the beginning when you first started developing your own identity as an artist?
BO: Wow, how much time do we have! Photography wise would be Eikoh Hosoe and the whole Japanese monochrome style; highly psychologically charged and spiritual, there is a spherical view of life and death, which is very important to me. Also Antoine D’agata, Bill Henson, Joel Peter Witkin and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Francisco De Goya’s “Black’’ paintings and etchings that he made in his last days were a big influence for Refluent Hours, as was Cy Twombly’s work who is probably my all time favorite. I try to think of his sublime squiggle when I make the scratches. But honestly most of it comes from my Spirituality studies and my family, my dad is Buddhist and mum is Muslim, she is also very psychically aware - it’s scary sometimes. My sister has been involved in Wicker her whole life, and I study Cosmic Ordering that deals with consciousness, quantum physics and shamanism. I was exposed to that by my sisters partner, who I must acknowledge as it has really changed my life. Thank you Kirk, love you man.

Image from the Refluent Hour series.

J: What can we expect from Benny Ong this year…can you tell us what you have been working on and where we could see some of your work?
BO: Refluent Hours is being shown in an extended version as part of a group exhibition curated by Sandy Edwards, which I am so excited about; July 2nd-20th at Xhibit 9 at Danks St. Waterloo. There are many projects that I’m working on at the moment, new pieces are coming to life everyday. But I’m excited about a collaboration I’m doing with my mother involving the ancient texts from Persian poet Kayam, whose writings are considered holy. People pray to them by randomly selecting pages, we are doing this together and I am photographing the pages that come to us. Who knows where that will lead.

J: Thank you for you time Beny, last but not least, where would you like to take your work to in the future? Any specific parts of the world or people you want to show it to?
BO: I’d like my work to be exposed to as many people as possible. Thank you, It’s been a pleasure, bless and stay golden.

Thanks Beny!

No comments: