ARTIST STATEMENT (2016)
I firmly believe art and life flow together. My artworks are realization of experiences: consciousness, awareness and path to enlightenment. I treat them like my own having personalities, characteristics and feelings. They are made spontaneously without patterns, standards, formulas, sketches or studies. My purpose is to share this to everyone.
"Liwanag ng Karanasan" Light of Experience is the title of my artwork in progress from where the recurring exhibit title "Liwanag" Light was derived. This unfinished work accompanies me throughout my experiences and journeys. As of 2011, it has reached an approximate length of 16 feet. The art work-in-progress serves as my companion in this calling and can never be truly completed. I want the work to be exhibited in my funeral as my physical body leaves this earth.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Aze Ong is a Manila-based artist working with crocheted sculptural forms, installation, and performance. Her works range from small sculptural pieces to large-scale crocheted installations that elicit a visual conversation with and within the site. The works may be floor-based, suspended from the ceiling, or wearable. The works are distinct for their tactile properties, unusual color harmonies, and shapes leaning towards abstraction. Since patterns result from the instantiation of the artist’s affective state and cognitive impulses at a given time, each creation is unique. The works underscore the process-oriented nature of creation and phenomenological experience of the artist.
Aze learned crochet in her Technology and Home Economics class during her formative years. Her teachers noted her intuitive approach to the craft and often gave her high marks for the functional objects she created. Eventually, what initially started as a hobby became a creative discipline. Aze initially helmed patterns and shapes within the confines of spaces typically relegated as private, feminine, and quotidian. Crochet was initially ignored in mainstream exhibition spaces and platforms of artistic validation. Nevertheless, Aze was not deterred and she continued her artistic practice.
In 1999, Aze went through a transformative experience as a volunteer teacher in Xavier de Kibangay under the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption in Lantapan, Bukidnon. Most of her students belonged to the Talaandig ethnolinguistic group. As she interacted with the Talaandig, they taught her their rituals and lifeways -- their affective approach to the creation of their songs, dances, and textiles was an eye-opener for Aze. She was particularly enthralled by the embroidered fabrics of the Talaandig and found out that it took several weeks up to months and under the guidance of ancestral spirits for these creations to be realized. In addition, their unique melodies emanate from unconscious mental processes and empathic states that can no longer be repeated once enacted. In one of the ritual feasts that she often witnessed, she observed a dance called binanog, characterized by stylized gestures mimicking avian movements. The honor of witnessing and humbling experience of the lifeworld of the Talaandig became an impetus for her process-oriented approach to art.
Aze started participating in group exhibitions in 2010: in alternative art spaces such as Espasyo Siningdikato and Likha Diwa sa Gulod; mainstream galleries such as Altro Mondo; and state-run art institutions such as the GSIS Museo ng Sining.
A traumatic incident in 2012 caused Aze to take refuge in her art. She crocheted everywhere she went until the repetition of gesture and motif provided the inner healing she needed. Curious passersby would sometimes approach her and observe that her works reminded them of mandalas. The artist’s experience of caring for several loved ones afflicted with diseases also allowed her to see the importance of healing. For Aze, the boundaries between art and life are collapsed; the art works result from the artist’s internalization of external forces and externalization of her internal struggles and thoughts.
Soon, solo exhibitions were launched one after another. "Liwanag" was a series launched in 2011 before being exhibited in 2013 at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Gallery in Intramuros, Manila. "Liwanag sa Kawalan ng Kulay" was launched in 2016 at the Yuchengco Museum. Each time, the exhibitions are inflected in new ways depending on the artist's present circumstances.
Since then, Aze Ong has been participating in important group exhibitions staged in several galleries in Manila and overseas as well as an international travelling exhibition in Vargas Museum. She has several solo exhibitions to her credit and has been featured by mainstream broadcast channels.
The artist’s interactions with people, the places she has traversed, her fluctuating emotional states, and elements from visual culture she absorbs are all embodied in her painstaking creations.
To this day, one will sometimes catch a sight of the artist creating spontaneous patterns and shapes while she is seated in a corner, inside a vehicle caught in a traffic jam, or waiting for a flight in an airport. Bursts of creative insight arrive several times within a day, followed by a relentless need to allow them to take form through the artist’s medium. Aze would sometimes incorporate found objects such as beads and bells into the rich hues and textures of the yarn. Recently, Aze has been translating the properties of sound in her visual-tactile creations through the “Sound in my Head” series.
Aze Ong’s exhibition openings are often ritualized, often starting with a performance around the space. Wearing her butterfly shawl our a pastiche of crocheted fabrics, eclectic melodies and improvised percussive sounds often provide a sonic backdrop for Aze as she moves trance-like around the site. The performance is akin to a butterfly’s emergence from a cocoon or a process of awakening from darkness into a space bathed by light and vivid colors. Each exhibition that features the crocheted sculptures and installations of Aze Ong is a multi-sensory experience that invites the viewer to touch, wear, or interact with the works.
By Laya Boquiren-Gonzales, art historian and educator (c.2016)