Over the years, Chong has developed a diverse practice within the tradition of lens-based media. His practice is renowned for its consideration of abstract concepts of life & death through banal details and silent landscapes. In this latest series, Chong delves deeper into these concepts, exploring themes of fragility, change,impermanence and decay. At a personal level, the series also serves as Chong’s comprehension of his own mortality, having recently turned 40.
In I Dim The Sun So That Dusk Arrives Earlier, Chong engages the notion of ‘pharmaceutical numbness’ through a suite of piezography prints with wilted flowers as its subject matter. The prints manifest an aesthetic quality that seemingly suggest artificialness via the unique tonal depth of piezography ink. The ink reflects and diffracts light in very unique ways – creating a sumptuous, velvety quality. Compared to his previous 2018 series – Mud & Mashed Hydrangea Leaves and Salad of Dandelion Greens – the current body of works are purposefully shrouded in darkness as a conceptual strategy. However, as a sophisticated monochromatic ink, piezography effectively render darkness as highlights and shadows are greatly expanded, enabling a unique ability to render smooth tones. From this process, qualities of photography and painting are intertwined, creating a sense of the surreal and uncertainty for viewers.
Chong titles his works after names of widely consumed antidepressants. For example, Amitriptyline (Elavil), Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane), Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq & Khedezla), etc. Juxtaposed against his subject matter, the narrative conjures a notion of fragile peace which is achieved through ‘pharmaceutical numbness’ and, by extension, artificial alienation. In clinical terms, antidepressants are prescribed to patients who undergo immense psychological pressures and are unable to cope with their emotions. To a certain extent, the drug improves the patient however, the side effects are costly. Some people are altogether alleviated from all sense of emotions including basic experiences of joy and sadness. An onset of numbness takes over and the patient eventually becomes detached from everyone, alienating himself from the world.
The discourse of addiction is another aspect of the series that Chong explores. He anchors his narrative on a parallel between the human’s mental and emotional health, and one of the planet. Despite the proven scientific fact that synthetic materials – like plastic – are harmful to the eco-system, human’s folly persists at an unfathomable level. Similarly, in spite of boycotting harmful pharmaceutical medicine, people convince themselves that certain medicines – like antibiotics – are not efficient anymore and that stronger doses are required. Drugs, like plastic, are clearly pervasive as Chong believes. As stated by Chong, “Our life depends on these medicines, just like the flowers depicted in the series depend on the plastic to protect their fragile petals.” Most importantly, the exhibition prompts viewers to reflect on the fragility of life and reveals how blissfully dependent humans are on non-organic and artificial matters.
EIFFEL CHONG – I DIM THE SUN SO THAT DUSK ARRIVES EARLIER