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I am Living with Monsters
Art Portal Gallery, Davao City
October 12, 2018
Dwelling pertains to home – having a roof above one's headwith walls that protect those who are inside and keep others out. One considers home a meaningful place filled with sensory associations that link to memory: the tiny cracks on the enamel paint, a chipped mug stacked atop melamine saucers, an unmade bed. Often, invisible barriers are established in one’s territory.One dwells with a lover, extended family, or community. In the larger scheme of things, one navigates through various social ecologies. To dwell is to cope and contend, charting the affective terrain of dissent, consent, acceptance, or resistance.
At times, one dwells with monsters.
Monsters may encroach on personal space, restrict access, andoverstep the boundaries. Their gazes scrutinize even the most minute movements. Over the years, their malevolence only increases in magnitude. In the morning, their shrill voices overpower the whistling kettle. At night, their rants drown out the murmurs of the crickets.
Home is the body's arena, a frontier where one negotiates living arrangements with others. With urban sprawl and complex property regimes, a 30-square meter space of sanitized prefabricated materials and flimsy concrete walls that readilydisclose the intimate details of neighbors seems compensatory.But such spaces, easily acquired at debilitating amortization packages, is a simulacrum of convenience albeit homogenous hallways. Even the working class cannot subscribe to this aspirational scheme, and so they contend with sharing quarters with others in a residence that has metamorphosized into a battleground.
The discomfort has galvanized Aze Ong, known for her installative crocheted forms. Where before she would loop and link threads of variegated hues, now she helms amorphous shapes out of silk yarns and patterns of somber monochromatic tones. In a corner of her home that has been both territory and production site, she labors, relentlessly joining thread after thread, meticulously knitting and pulling.
In a system bequeathed by art czars that has long consigned the feminized practice of crocheting as ephemeral or 'devoid of concept,' Aze insists on the materiality of fiber, sculpting soft shapes that resist confinement within a frame and behind glass.For the artist, the personal and the laborious become inseparable from the motivations of art-making. After all, such process-oriented approaches are ideations of the mind as well. Domestic labor is often ignored in the economic system of valuation. Art-making within the confines of domestic space is also often misconstrued as leisurely. The artist begs to differ from the notion that the tactile and affective are necessarily contrasted with sight and intellect within a totalizing regime of false dichotomies. Beyond theories on emotional expression and unravelling of memories, the artist crafts a proposition on the ontological categories of art and the praxis of art-making, and art-as-commodity.
Monstrosity thrives in many ways -- in arenas of artworld consecration, in a society with growing statistics of dispossession, and in a domestic setting that deprives one of comfort and privacy. One's monsters can also thrive within, throbbing and sending jolts of pain upon provocation or confrontation. Only upon recognizing these can transformative possibilities be accessed. Thus, the exhibition invites viewers-participants and fellow dwellers to meditate: am I living with monsters?
c. Laya Boquiren, 2018
(Photos by Raphael Meting)
PRACTICES FROM THE PERIPHERIES Taking cue from Art Informal’s 2018 invitational, curator-driven exhibition program for this space, Practices from the Peripheries is conceptualized as an interchange of five solo exhibitions by artists the curator has worked with whose medium/material, circumstance, theme, or politics edges them out of the mainstream canvas-biased art market
Memory thematically ties all the exhibitions together into an archipelago of meanings, where exchange happens without diluting the individuality of each artist. Aspects of memory, from the ever-changing remembrance based on the context of who one is at the moment, to the choice of what to remember and what to forget, unconscious oblivion, and the active aspect of hope and faith, all figure in the five solo exhibitions of art practices from the peripheries.
A roundtable discussion on Contemporary Art and the Art Market will open the exhibit. Joining the discussion are Dindin Araneta (Art Fair Philippines), Gene Paul Martin (Sampaguita Special Projects), Gabe Naguiat (Kalawakan Spacetime), and Yael Buencamino Borromeo (Areté).
Ricky Francisco is a freelance curator who is on a continuous and long-term contract with the Lopez Museum and Fundacion Sanso.
Aze Ong has been using crochet as her means of artmaking. Oscillating between aid to performative art and soft sculpture, her works have been prone to consideration by local collectors as craft, despite being exhibited in some of the art capitals of the world. For this exhibit, she creates a large installation inspired by the connections between her life as a taekwondo athlete and her life as an artist. The installation is collectively called Attached.
Strands: Filipino and Filipino-American Contemporary Artists Encounter Textile Dates: August 18 to October 28, 2018
Opening Reception on 3rd Saturday ArtWalk, Saturday, August 18, 2018 from 4pm to 7pm
The Strands exhibition introduces new work by artists of Filipino descent Cirilo Domine, Christine Morla, and Aze Ong in drawing, mixed media, installation, sculpture, and garments influenced by the fibrous textiles of the Philippines.
Domine responds to a yellowed and crumbling woman’s camisa and a man’s camisa de chino, circa 1920s, that he discovered on his last trip to Manila, creating in these pieces a kind of mapping, layering, or excavation of history. In addition to this new installation, a showing of Domine’s multifaceted garments will be displayed in a performance garment show on Thursday, September 6, beginning at 7:00 pm.
Drawing and weaving techniques have long been a signature of Christine Morla’s contemporary art practice. Inspired by the Philippine banig (a handwoven style of mat used in East Asia and the Philippines for sleeping and sitting) Morla will exhibit recent mixed-media drawings that explore depth and Modernist painting, and an installation made up of hundreds of small weavings of colored paper and found materials. Through these labor-intensive works, Morla appears to be mapping landscapes, simultaneously expressing a longing for identity by attempting to merge disparate selves.
Manila-based Aze Ong is perhaps best known for her large-scale fiber installation projects, performances, and sculptural forms. In Strands, she will exhibit two small, crocheted sculptures she refers to as “Bathalas,” and a large ceiling-mounted mandala form. Ong’s brightly colored, labor-intensive work highlights the textile traditions of her heritage as it negotiates the contemporary space.
Pinta*Dos Philippine Art Gallery is an art space founded by Linda Nietes of the Philippine Expressions Bookshop and located in the heart of the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District in the historic Arcade Building.
Pinta*Dos Philippine Art Gallery
479 West Sixth Street, Suite 107, San Pedro, CA 90731
Gallery Hours: Thursdays and Fridays from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm and by appointment; and First Thursdays during the San Pedro Art Walk from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm
by Patrick D. Flores
Aze Ong’s sortie into the art world did not follow a typical arc. She did not go to art school and so was not psyched up or primed, so to speak, to become an artist within the confines of art history and the ambit of the art market. Without social capital, she initially found it difficult to register a presence. Adding to this lack of access was her chosen medium: fiber. It was perceived to be not art, but craft. That the maker was a woman who did not train as an artist did not help. Finally, she had to face this persistent issue about the contemporary. Can fiber that is craft ever be contemporary? It is not even modern, some would argue.
It was not, therefore, surprising that Ong elicited a comment from an art-world observer that her art did not have a concept and therefore cannot be considered contemporary. Surely, certain notions of reflexivity are central in the knowledge system of international contemporary art. How can Ong’s art ever figure in this scene?
The mindful body is central in Ong’s gestures. The crochet work that she diligently and delicately elaborates upon to summon animate forms is supple enough to merely fall like a handkerchief from the sky or to decisively enfold the at once docile and unruly body. The substance of choice is clearly meant to be touched and felt, to be worn and to move within and through it. That the artist tends to invest in ornament to further expand the materiality of the pieces draws the viewer to the form out of curiosity and, ultimately, as an opportunity to participate in performing the textile. Visual form in the context of movement is inflected at some point in the process with sound. Ong stitches into the soft sculpture squeaking devices reminiscent of toys. All this feeds into a festive atmosphere, one that excites and activates what an artist has called “childhood urges.”
So can the notion of concept be forced into the work? How can reflexivity be imbricated in this kind of initiation?
Ong responds to these requirements of contemporary art counter-intuitively.
First, Ong keeps to the task with devotion, almost obsessively crocheting to give birth to works beyond human scale and to fill cavernous white cubes with her ever-efflorescent forms. Color is prominent. And the condition of dangling or hanging is palpable. Like flowers, they bloom. Like vines, they crawl. Cyberspace yields the website of The Institute for Figuring, and it informs us that crochet has been appropriated to simulate hyperbolic space. The account is fascinating: “In 1997 Cornell University mathematician Daina Taimina finally worked out how to make a physical model of hyperbolic space that allows us to feel, and to tactilely explore, the properties of this unique geometry. The method she used was crochet.”It is explained that “one of the qualities of hyperbolic space is that as you move away from a point the space around it expands exponentially.”The quest for a model to crack this spatial code led Taimina to crochet: “Taimina intuited that the essence of this construction could be implemented with knitting or crochet simply by increasing the number of stitches in each row. As you increase, the surface naturally begins to ruffle and crenellate. Taimina, who grew up in Latvia with a childhood steeped in feminine handicrafts, immediately set about making a model. At first she tried knitting - and you can indeed knit hyperbolic surfaces -- but the large number of stitches on the needles quickly becomes unmanageable and Taimina realized that crochet offered the better approach.”Crochet thus becomes a knowledge system, a way of sensing the world and making sense of it. Through a knitting machine, Ong is afforded more options to try formats different from the spread or the drape, as she explores the curl, the fold, or the coil, a more inward instinct of matter, a more coral-like bent.
Second, Ong explores the potential of her body to perform. Here the work acquires another life because it initiates an event in which Ong takes on the textile and choreographs a story and enacts a feeling. It is at this intersection that perhaps her body of work converses with what women artists have harnessed across the seasons to assert the dreams, perturbations, and politics of women, they who may be mothers, visionaries, weavers of future, witnesses of present, and most of all conceivers. Like the cloth of Ong, they incessantly exfoliate.
Third, Ong collects everyday things that she picks up in her sojourns and weaves them into her work. This procedure enables her to cross media, as it were, and disrupt the continuity of crochet. Her surface now becomes more textured, less prone to the capture of preconceptions about craft, utility, and commodity. For this exhibition, the signature forms of the artist are rendered hospitable to idiosyncratic objects that are integrated with the fabric. They range from acorns to hotel keys, from stones to gloves, shells to tickets. Like the yarns and the threads that are looped or filaments that are knitted through a machine, the fiber art of Ong enlivens the space because it bears a multitude of materials; and it shelters the body because it evokes the hyperbolic world. This is an exemplary convergence: the body dwells in strands of memory, taken on like habit with wistfulness and defiance.
“Hyperbolic Space Crochet Models,” The Institute of Figuring, accessed 27 March 2018.
“Asia Young 36”
Jeonbuk Museum of Arts, Korea
September - November, 2016
Liwanag Sa Kawalaan ng Kulay
March 110 June 25, 2016
On view at the museum’s lobby is Liwanag sa Kawalan ng Kulay (Light in the Absence of Color), a 8.83 meter-high crochet installation created by Aze Ong. The installation is accompanied by a video of the artist performing on the sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, as well as the crochet butterfly wings featured in the video.
Liwanag sa Kawalan ng Kulay belongs to a particular part of Ong’s life as a woman who tackles challenges and overcomes difficulties and displacement in a different culture. Ong was inspired by the Grand Mosque’s metaphor for her sense of “self”; by the desert where she found peace and connection in the warmth of the sand; in the silence of the winds and within; and the traditional weaving kept alive by women.
Aze Ong is a visual and performance artist who uses crochet as her medium. Although she does not have any formal art training, she has been making art for most of her life. Her art, which has been exhibited at the Crucible Gallery, Cultural Center of the Philippines, GSIS Museo ng Sining, and Museo Pambata, is largely a product of intuition.
Liwanag sa Kawalan ng Kulay is an art installation presented by Yuchengco Museum in celebration of Women’s Month.
10 December 2015 to 7 February 2016
Bulwagang Carlos V. Francisco (CCP Little Theater Lobby)
Opening reception: 10 December 2015, Thursday, 6pm
Artist’s talk: 14 January 2016, Thursday, 4pm, Bulwagang Carlos V. Francisco (CCP Little Theater Lobby)
I experience a similar transformation and go thru a ‘change of form’ if you will…as if inside a cocoon, in darkness and at rest…something akin to a blank stage…“trancelike” as flashes of brightness starts manifesting…awakening from the self, to changeand bathe in Light and colors through my wings.
Butterflies go through a life cycle known as complete metamorphosis. In the life history of an organism, it is a change in form from one stage to the next. A person can experience similar phases in life, though not physically.
Aze Ong’s art practice is about her emotions and her perpetual reflections on both past and new experiences. It is composed of the various stages in her life cycle that asserts itself on all circumstances. It is an ardent mining of resources afforded by experience, used as a means to confront her many extreme emotions.
Liwanag, which means enlightenment, is her current project that is the next stage in Ong’s phase in life. After undergoing numerous trials, the artist navigated through depression to find strength within her art. Through crochet she found inner peace. By tapping into her experiences she found spiritual freedom, a sanctuary where her thoughts and expressions came to life in her art.
The repetitiveness of the process and the feeling of accomplishment gave her a fulfillment. (A private ritual that heals her heart, mind and soul). Ong now shares her process by volunteering and participating with workshops that touch on inspiration and healing. It is a part of her art journey. It is her way of sharing.
To shine a light on Ong’s practice is to recognize her passion for her process-oriented art-making. Ong learned to crochet while taking classes at Assumption Antipolo. After realizing that her teacher and a majority of the class were right handed, she felt that she was disadvantaged by being left-handed herself. However she persevered and eventually excelled by following her intuition and emotion.
In 1999, Ong decided to volunteer for the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption and taught at the Xavier de Kibangay High School in Lantapan Bukidnon for a year. Most of her students were part of the Talaandig tribe, an indegenous group found in the barangays and municipalities surrounding the mountain of Kitanglad. However she discovered that unlike their ancestors, her students were becoming more and more exposed to modern culture. Because of this, she initiated projects for them that focused on their traditional culture, their rituals, dances, and their way of life.
Life was challenging but simple. Although it took her out of her comfort zone, Ong felt at home living on sparse conditions such as relying on the rain for bathing and other needs.
A dacade later, Ong looks back at the three important aspects of her time with the Talaandig tribe:
First was her attraction to their traditional attire. Upon asking an elder about the cost, she was informed that they had to know the wearer thougroughly in order to be guided by spirits in choosing the right colors and embroidered patterns. This taught her to value her creations.
The second was when a student taught her to play the tribal flute. She came up with her own diagram while trying to recreate their melodies,. She realized that the melodies could not be repeated and that the music was innate within them.
The third was during a celebration where a “Binanog” dance mimicking birds flying was performed. This would have an impact and influence on her future performances.
In 2010 she met her would-be mentor, sculptor and mixed media artist Lirio Salvador. Salvador told her that what she was doing was “art” and encouraged and guided her. She found her true inescapable passion.
Ong’s process is intuitive. Her studio floor is littered with yarns of various colors and textures which she selects from, depending on her mood. Working mostly with circular forms as if to signify the infinite, she draws inspiration from her interactions and experiences. Like her phases in life, her ideas flows incessantly towards the Light that leads her. It is a cycle of pain, healing, joy, consciousness, awareness and eventually, enlightenment (Liwanag).