One of the major reasons that photography is often distanced from other forms of art is that a photograph is a captured piece of reality. The artistic input that is required to paint a mural, build a sculpture, or perform a symphony is different than clicking a shutter on a camera. This is not meant to demean photography; the comparison is simply a way to show the complexity of the art form. A photographer has to create an emotional response within an audience through the cold authenticity of technology. That sliver of reality that a camera can steal and store away depends on the context in which it is displayed in order to tell a story. Most photographs cannot stand alone on a wall without explanation or context and still have viewers understand what the photographer saw, or what he subsequently encourages us to see.
Fong Qi Wei doesn't rely on intense subject matter or philosophical explanations of what a crumpled bit of newspaper stuck under a garbage can might "mean", he uses the technology that so often separates photography from other forms of visual art to his advantage. His pieces are obviously manipulated, spliced together, and altered in some way, but he is able to create something unique, meaningful, and aesthetically attractive, while keeping the message quite simple, and one that we can immediately see and understand as easily as we look at the hands on a clock.
National Day Preview 2
He approached the two-dimensional limitation of photography from a new direction. Obviously the content of a picture offers depth, but only so far as we can visually understand that this is a recreated image of another place and time. The two-dimensional photo paper is still flat. However, since most people think of photography as a snapshot of a single instant, or a drawn-out series of moments, in the case of slow shutter speed shots, time is rarely considered as a viable dimension for photography to really explore.
Fong Qi Wei is fascinated by the human experience of time, and how our perception of the world drastically shifts over both the short and the long term. We do not experience the world in segmented moments; this is why people are often more attracted to video than still frame modes of entertainment, because people often look for the path of least resistance for their entertainment. We live in a constant flood of moments that make up our life; it is therefore easier for some people to understand art in that same sort of flow, rather than stopping to consider one instant and its artistic or philosophical relevance. Fong Qi Wei shatters the narrow-minded trope of photography being inaccessible to people living in a fluid reality by displaying the passage time in a beautiful, unlimited way.
Tion Bahru Sunset
Fullerton Bay Hotel Sunset
Changi Beach Sunrise
This series, called "Time is A Dimension", is Fong Qi Wei's attempt to combine the aesthetic experiences of a video and a photograph in a single work of art. These photographs are all composites made from different pictures takes over a 2-4 hour span. Most of these pieces focus on landscapes, cityscapes, or still life subjects, as the movement of people and things in the chosen spaces would have destroyed the harmony of the line, color gradation, and transient permanence that the pictures oxymoronically capture.
The majority of the pieces focus on the change from day to night, which is why most include "sunrise" or "sunset" in the title, but this is also because the transitional parts of the day are the most obvious for the eye to notice and appreciate. People sit and watch sunsets for hours, as the seemingly inexorable movement of the sun floods the sky with swaths of unexpected colors and beauty. Qi Wei's photography juxtaposes slices of time in concentric or graded layers, so while the overall effect seems to be fading from one time of day to the next, it is in fact a mixture of moving forward and backward in time. The general trend is clear when you step back, but up close, you would be hard-pressed to organize the slices chronologically.
Kite Flying at West Coast (Sunset)
The whole concept of his art is to make people consider the difference between what we see and what we remember. Also, it calls in to question the value of photography itself, and makes us wonder if what we see is actually what shows up on our camera. There is something missin from a photograph that never allows it to fully feel authentic, despite the fact that ultra-modern technology is able to capture minute details of every image we put in front of our lens. There is still a gap between the way our eyes experience true reality and the way our brain interprets the memory of a photograph. When we look at the photograph of another person, we are looking at their idea of reality, from that unreproducible moment of time.
With all other art mediums, we are asked to make an interpretation of someone else's interpretation; photography forces us to look at duplicated reality through someone else's perspective, and it is a bizarre voyeuristic experience. With Fong Qu Wei's series of photographs, although we were not on those beaches or city overlooks with him when he was shooting, the passage of time is something we feel more comfortable with, and watching a sunset is something that can be done with two people, as they share in the dynamic, color-shifting evolution of beauty in the same sky.
National Day Preview
Art serves many purposes, but one of its essential roles is to rearrange people's perspectives of the world around them. By expanding their understanding of cultural or historical wisdom within the silent, visceral classrooms of a museum, art can transcend language, socioeconomic factors, education, gender, and any other divisive element of society. Most art creates different emotional sensations in people, so it both unifies and divides people. This innovative style of photography challenges the traditions of the medium, cross-breeds it with more accessible and widely understood media like video or performance art. This brilliant bastardized shift in the philosophy of photography makes it relatable to far more people, since the passage of time is something that everyone experiences and understands in their own way.
If you want to explore more of Fong Qi Wei's unusual stylings in other, even stranger, mediums, check out his website!
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All images are subject to copyright by the artist.