To say that art has been a journey for Aze Ong is an understatement.
From seeds of inspiration with her family, where as a child she helped out in their textile business to epiphanies from exposure to indigenous communities, when she became a volunteer teacher to the Talaandig tribe; from the challenges of recognition as an artist with a marginalized medium, to the challenges of an international art practice, Ong is always at the beginning.
In her preferred medium of fiber, the most important step is the beginning. A loop, a hook, a knot – any object that she completes reacts to that first step. Imagine a journey through a tunnel: and whatever path you take, you are guided by that light at the end – Liwanag. It might sound paradoxical, but in order to begin at the end, it is that liwanag that guides all throughout.
All organisms thrive on light, whether or not they use it for themselves. In a way, light is inherently organic, as Ong’s objects mostly are -- a temporary build of something that cannot be reconstructed in entire accuracy. Fragile, ephemeral, intuitive, the works are borne of the exact moment they are made, without patterns or plans, as if everything reacts to an encoded language of creation.
After birth, they take their first steps into the world, and we are immersed in a dance, a performance, a visual ephemeral extension of the object. We find ourselves at the intersection of being in something we can call “the fabric of existence.” Ong finds herself enmeshed with her creations, woven together into a time and a space, with steps and gestures that pauses, consumes a moment, her slow and free movements weaving enlightenment with healing.
In many, if not all early cultures - and in some ways up to the present – a “life blanket” figures prominently in a person’s lifetime. It marks the beginning of our existence, the continuity of our existence, and the end of our existence. Of special interest in her body of work is the natural wearability of everything she has created. Be it a wing that covers the body for warmth, a cocoon that shelters a fragile moment of growth, or a crown that envisions our innate magnificence as humans. It might be said that such similar forms are present in high couture, away from any utlitarian sense, “unpret-a-porter” in a way. Yet these forms are the closest to our original needs -- the womb we first grew up, or the umbilical cord whose severing signaled our union with the outside world.
Anyone who encounters her creations will immediately know them, as we have all been intimate with fiber. Our skin knows the feeling of it too well. In her most recent project “Queen”, a sculptural fiber work accompanied the artist on a neighborhood walk. Somehow people connected with the piece, but also found it unfamiliar, despite being of the same fiber on their backs. There is a tale of a monarch who walked amongst the populace disguised. This mingling of royalty – once considered “sacred” – and the commonplace, is relevant in this age of empowerment. Fiber is basic, it is familiar – but has become unfamiliar; it is hidden in plain sight. In this continuing journey, the light continues to guide along a path of fiber that has become a stranger.
Far from the end, fiber is the tool with which Ong makes a guiding light.
-written by Francisco Lee