Artist Spotlight: Alvin Ong, Chadwell Award Winner 2018

Alvin Ong is a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, having completed his Masters last Summer. His paintings synthesize mythologies, histories and folk-forms into non-linear narratives and surreal improvisations. Alvin has exhibited internationally, splitting his time between London and Singapore and has been the recipient of numerous awards, the most recent of which is the 2018 Chadwell Award which brought him to Bow Arts.

The Chadwell Award offers an amazing opportunity to emerging artists, providing a bridge between art school and practicing professionally as an artist. Open exclusively to Fine Art MA graduates of the same year, the Chadwell Award works with Bow Arts to provide a free studio space at our eponymous Bow Road site, providing access to a thriving community of 120 artists; plus a £1,000 bursary.

We have caught up with Alvin to find out how he’s settling into his first 6 months of life at Bow Arts.

Hi Alvin, how are you settling into Bow Arts?

The past few months have been very busy, with the solo show for Singapore Art Week in January, and a few art fairs such as Art Basel Hong Kong. Since I got back I’ve been going to a print studio in Shoreditch, making a new edition of prints with Jealous Studio that will be shown at the London Art Print Fair at the RA. This studio definitely feels like a luxury compared to the one we were allocated in school! The bigger wall and floor space means that I can test and make works on a larger scale, and the largest canvases at my recent solo show in Singapore were created here.

Having come straight from education how are you finding the transition from an academic environment to life as a studio artist?

Art school works at a much faster speed, being at Bow Arts I’ve gradually adjusted to a change of pace which I think results in a more natural process of growth. But perhaps because I occasionally still miss the frequency and structure of the interaction art school, I signed up for the Bow Skills painting crit with Anj Smith, and it was really great. Everyone who showed up was very open and very generous. It was nice to also see what some of the other artists were doing at Bow Arts, I’m really looking forward to the Open Studios in June to have the opportunity to continue building on these experiences.

What difference has the support of the Chadwell Award and your studio at Bow Arts made to this transition?

I think having a physical space that’s self-contained makes a huge difference. Currently, I see the studio as a space where the audience is just myself. I have found that my recent works have become much more intimate and personal. Most importantly, the award means I can really just paint without having to worry about studio rent for a year, which is a huge deal for me. I try to keep the floor plan as open as possible, so that I can shift things around. In the past I was quite used to having my canvases all stacked up in school but the studio at Bow Arts affords me the space to hang works alongside one another instead, allowing them to start conversations with one another, and this has been a hugely fertile breeding ground in germinating new work.

You are half way through your residency now, where do you see yourself going next?

The later half of the year might get quite busy but I have the next few months to myself to just paint without any commercial pressure. Currently, with a body of existing work that I can refer back to, I think I have a sense of what I have in my pocket. I want to explore and expand this visual vocabulary, to perhaps form new sentence structures with them, and to see what else I can still do with the language of the body and figuration. At the moment I’m working on a few paintings which focus on feet. Perhaps that’s my current fetish! It’s a rather organic process, and I like to keep things fluid and open. That’s the exciting thing.

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