For London and Singapore-based artist, Alvin Ong, physical and emotional distance have been themes of exploration long before 2020 made them an everyday reality for almost all of us.
In Alvin´s paintings, abstract nude figures jostle for room and tangle together in spaces decorated with devices that are specially chosen to advance the narratives on display. “I see our devices as extensions of ourselves, windows through which we project our inner lives and desires,” Alvin says.
“The paintings themselves all begin as drawings or sketches and then I decide on certain figurative structures which I find interesting. And along the way these structures get revised a lot.”
Old town, 2020, oil on canvas
Quarantine reshaped all of our lives. And for Alvin, who has been living in Singapore during this time, it was no different. After converting a spare room in his parents' home into a studio, lockdown became an extremely creative period. “Maybe this might be because I didn’t have my usual social distractions in isolation. It was really surreal, living with the odd mix of emergency and normalcy, being fed updates from a world in chaos in the confines of my studio. I noticed the figures in my work becoming much more solitary – like everyone else, it’s the human touch and interactions I miss the most during lockdown, even as I try to convince myself otherwise.”
'Quarantine', 2020, oil on canvas
‘Quarantine’, 2020, oil on canvas, is a by-product of these experiences. Made just before Alvin was due to fly back to the UK - at the same time countries were beginning to lockdown - it shows a distorted figure within a small room forced into sharing their time between only a phone, a window and a laptop. Yet, it is not only the subject of ‘quarantine’ that catches the eye, it’s the colours. Shades of pink and blue dominate the painting, contrasting when needing to and swimming alongside one another when required. “Colour is a crucial element of theatre in my work,” Alvin says. “Sometimes it’s intuitive and emotive and sometimes it’s decided midway as the narratives unfold through the process.”
Mutual comfort, 2020, oil on canvas
And how about the future direction of his work? “I take it how it goes,” Alvin responds. “I like to keep an open mind and I try not to settle into a specific formula of working. Sometimes I also flit between large and smaller works to keep the studio air from going stale. To keep alternating and changing gears.”
And future dreams?
“To keep painting and discovering. I’d like to do murals and experiment with the fresco technique one day.”
You can enjoy more of Alvin’s work on his website here: https://www.alvin-ong.com/ And on his Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alvinonglj/?hl=en