Born in Johor, Alex Ong Boon Hau, is drawn to flowers, particularly wild flowers. In his latest “Journey with Yarrow” series, Alex documents his experiences of combing through the countryside of New Zealand, where his appreciation for Yarrow flower continues. Interestingly, Alex feels that the flower bears certain significant and similar qualities which is found in himself.
The Yarrow is a wild flower, originating first in Siberia and has since migrated to Western Europe. A similar species can also be found at the base of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah. It is a resilient plant with healing properties. It is used as an herb to reduce temperatures when boiled to a juice. And in the olden days the Yarrow was also used in the small villages for wedding bouquets.
Alex is intrigued by the shape and look of the flowers as well as the colour spectrum of the yarrow – they come in chrome yellow, pink, maroon and white. The white variety is especially meaningful to Alex, as it symbolizes purity and innocence.
Alex finds comfort when he revisits the vast and barren countryside of New Zealand. It is during the summer months that he finds solace when the Yarrow begins to bloom and again in the autumn when it starts to fade.
Alex explains “ (the yarrow) even as it is time to wilt, the yarrow stands upright and never bends nor loses its shape. I feel that the yarrow is like me, the neglected child who has to fend for himself, the forgotten child.’ And he continues “ I paint the yarrow like a meeting of old friends, filled with the sounds of an orchestra to celebrate a union of sorts.”
His colour palette in this series are of striking combinations of oranges, purple, vermillion and ultramarine, exuding feelings of cheerfulness, romance and burning desires. He delicately splashes paint on paint to express shimmering speckles of jewel like imagery. The result is reminiscent of Japanese Zen aesthetics, one of quiet contemplation allowing for deeper reflection.
It is in this simplistic elegance of the Yarrow that Alex finds enchanting and romantic. And through this journey, Alex captures his personal relationship with nature. To him it is an essential part for greater understanding of one’s self and personal happiness.