Profile: Eiffel Chong
Peacefully capturing the often-neglected spaces in society, the light in Malaysian artist Eiffel Chong’s (featured in Habitus 21, on sale September 26) photographs evokes the landscapes of the great Dutch Masters. But behind these soft landscape scenes, there lies a much deeper question. By Philippa Daly.
Eiffel Chong’s recent photographic series of local seascapes are uncharacteristically quiet. In these beachside scenes, the shore is empty, the water is still and the horizon is seemingly endless. But out of this silence, Chong reveals an even deeper disquiet: man’s relationship to the environment. “Humanity has always abused Mother Nature,” says Chong. “I still see people littering, even though we all know it is bad for the environment. Yet people still continue to do it. Why?”
Chong’s photographs aim to remind us that we are a part of a bigger ecosystem – that we are fundamentally connected to our natural environment, not apart from it. Taking in the neglected, empty spaces that exist between public and private land, Chong’s photographs celebrate man as a producer, rather than as a consumer of the world. Whether it is the lone floating buoy, the abandoned pier or the rotting wooden boat, each image hints towards man’s influence over the space – even the image itself is a product of man. “My photographs are mainly an investigation into the sublime attraction we have for nature,” continues Chong, “an attraction that requires a nuance understanding of our human relationship with nature.”
Much like the artists from the Dusseldorf School of Photography, Chong’s sober, ‘straight on’ documentary style blurs the line between photography and painting: his intricate detail could easily be absorbed into the wider minimalist art world without differential. And by transforming the ‘created world’ into a ‘fictional world’, where the viewer sees the landscape as a fabrication through a lens, Chong’s seemingly highly constructed scenes strike a nostalgic, essentialist chord in the viewer. “I’m also inspired by Haruki Murakami’s fictions,” continues Chong, “the Japanese have the gift of turning something so mundane into something so interesting. And their attention to detail is amazing.” The starkness of the scenes, the simplicity of the composition and colours create powerful images that resonate deeply and emotionally with their audience.
Chong’s works are all about engaging with, and commenting on, humanity’s contemporary landscape, his photographs documenting the existence of human actions and natural processes in ever-changing combinations. “I like how my photographs affect viewers through their own life experiences,” says Chong, “my photographs work like triggers to awake memories.”
For Chong, art is about broadening people’s perspectives, about exploring and educating. But beyond this didactic purpose, Chong’s pieces are stunning works of art – careful, considered and precise photographs that capture us intellectually and emotionally in a way that only the best images do.
Habitus 21 is on sale September 26. Subscribe to Habitus here.