Spurious Stories from the Land and Water
After decades of travel and observation, Malaysian-born but Singaporean-based photographer and filmmaker Sherman Ong has built a strong rhetoric on the theme of origin, migration and diaspora. His own experience of migration came fairly early, when as a teenager he was uprooted from his home in Malacca and dropped into the fast-paced and quickly developing metropolis that was, and still is, Singapore.
Over the course of his career Ong has travelled the world developing his vision through artist residencies based in Hanoi and at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan. It is only fitting that his breakthrough came whilst overseas, when he opened the 2003 Rotterdam Film Festival with Exodus, a film about Indonesian dance.
Since then, Sherman Ong’s work has been shown in numerous international venues including the Singapore Platform at the Venice Biennale 2009, where he presented his 2008 short-film Tickets. The film tracks the life of Chinese emigrant Xiao Jing, a ticket seller in an old cinema in Singapore. Sherman Ong’s past film-work demonstrates a striking style of observation. His two-part film Flooding in a Time of Drought, originally commissioned for the Singapore Biennale 2008, addresses the topic of migration in Singapore by recording conversations between 8 couples of expatriates as they discuss the issue of water shortage. The same theme is addressed in Ong’s ongoing series Motherland, which began in 2011. This series of short films tell the story of the emigrant’s struggle through the format of video confessionals, and includes the re-emergence of Tickets character Xiao Jing.
Today, Sherman Ong’s photographic style continues to tread between the realms of documentary and fiction by paradoxically capturing spontaneous moments through carefully constructed images. His current series Spurious Landscapes epitomises this style with vacant and surreal land and cityscapes, punctuated only with a scattering of human or animal life that emphasises its banality. On the other hand, his series Monsoon captures the frenetic and desperate energy of Hanoi residents travelling under the weight of a tropical rainstorm. By shooting through the layers of rain and glass from a moving van, this series bears an otherworldly feel where the viewer’s stillness conflicts with the subject’s disarray.
Ong has also recently teamed up with Norwegian filmmaker Birgitte Sigmunstad to direct and produce the 2014 film Lucy and I. The pair joined forces as part of the 2014 DOX:LAB project, which is a platform fostering cross-cultural exchange in the film industry by matching EU and non-EU filmmakers. Lucy and I is a creative documentary consisting of short episodes featuring a variety of Norwegian and Singaporean-based characters that correspond to each other as a visual dialogue. Lucy and I is currently showing at the 12th Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) in March 2014.
Exhibition: Spurious Stories from the Land and Water, a solo exhibition by Sherman Ong
Dates: Till 31 May 2014
Venue: Art Plural Gallery, 38 Armenian Street, Singapore 179942
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 7:00pm
Info: www.artpluralgallery.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org