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Around the Sun all Year Long: The paintings by Sylvia Ong

Sylvia Ong, Around the Sun all Year Long (Diptych), 2022, 280 x 200 cm, oil on canvas

Soaked in luminous colors and naturalistic inspirations, the paintings by Sylvia Ong deserve our full attention. They are not only reflections of the artist's perception of the world as we see it, but also of the inner world, of memories and feelings. The eponymic monumental diptych Around the sun all year long is an overwhelming depiction of a certain global state of mind, of a universal drive from fear to hope that the artist would like to foster.

It was in the middle of a tremendous time of turmoil around the whole world, when Sylvia Ong started to create this major piece of art: Initially, the impulse for this painting came during the peak of the pandemic, when people were isolated, not able to visit and see their loved-ones, when they were deeply concerned and fundamentally rattled. Everything changed. Everything seemed uncertain. It was then that Ong received a powerful insight: Wherever you are and in whatever situation you find yourself, the sun is shining on you. It's a global truth and applies to every free person on earth. Why then not putting your vision towards the light? Towards hope and growth?

This painting catches not only its rays, but also the life-giving force of the sun. The plants that are growing and flourishing through the harmony between the four elements, between water, earth, air and fire. And by doing so, Ong takes up the visual languages of classical Asian and European artists such as Chang Dai-Chien, Claude Monet, and Jackson Pollock, too. Dai-Chien, one of the most prominent Chinese painters of the 20th century, was known for his virtuosic brushstroke and his enormous skills in mimicking the old Chinese masters. In addition to that, in Ong's work the influence of Impressionism is undeniable. Her work is focused on nature and reminds in its subtle beauty of Monets Water Lilies and his Japanese bridges, too. Astonishingly and more importantly, her art clearly shows the impact of American Expressionism as well. The artist herself speaks of “nature expressionism” and that may gets to the heart of her art. With expressive drips and a at times broad brushstroke, Ong switches in her painting virtuously between delicate, nearly calligraphic structures and a vibrant, vigorous style.

But that's not all. Born in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian painter draws from her rich experience in various professional areas – from actress to filmmaker and producer of photographies. And she has the impressive ability of painting with a musical approach which incorporates harmonious aspects all the way to synesthesia. Her painting Come Back Home (I) corresponds to the previous image and has an autobiographical touch, too. Though the artist called many different places home and lived already beside Kuala Lumpur in Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai, this picture resonates the “long lost feeling of the smell of rain and forest, sandy beaches and the sun”. Ong, having left her homeland Malaysia many years ago, says: “It is a story of places that become our home, sometimes by chance and sometimes by choice.” The title of her series Around the sun all year long applies in a stunning way to these paintings. They all emanate an abundance and spiritedness, as only seldom encountered in contemporary painting.

Sara Tröster Klemm, 2022

Sylvia Ong, Come Back Home (I), 2022, 200 x 200 cm, oil on canvas

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