Ben Chong, a Malaysian contemporary artist found his way in creating a brand of love and compassion through his autism series inspired by his special child.
10 years is a short period of time for Ben Chong to polish his skills and get recognised internationally. Previously worked in an advertising agency, it has always been his hobby to paint since he was little. Gratefully, Ben reunites with his passion after decades and is proud to be a fully committed artist.
“The media industry is not doing well so 5 years ago I diversified into interior design.” Ben owns an interior design company and with more time on his hands, Ben started picking up his paint brushes too.
When he first started, Ben admits that he is painting to please people. “I didn’t find my calling. Most of the subjects I painted are to delight others.” And he admits, it wasn’t selling well too.
His Ultimate Inspiration
Yet with perseverance and good intention, the right direction will presents itself. Ben is now known as one of the few artists globally that paints about autism. Besides his talent as an artist, Ben confesses that his autism series is inspired by his 15 year-old autistic son, Owen Chong.
“Owen learns to paint with guidance from a France art teacher. Surprisingly, his work was amazing, full of energy, and all from his heart. One year goes by and he was invited by UNESCO of Paris to showcase his art pieces in there.
“We [my wife and I] felt so proud of our son, who as a autistic kid has the power to show something to the world.” From that day onwards, Ben dedicates to make people understand more about the complex disorder, mainly inspired by his son.
Owen has mild autism. He shares that his autistic child doesn’t know where to fit in and he always eats alone in school. Speech limitation and communication are the daily challenges of autistic people.
Ben shares that he would think of Owen whenever he starts painting, and sometimes, he would carefully observe his son’s behaviour and sparks of ideas would come to him.
An Artist’s Obligation
As a father of a child with special needs, Ben feels the need to deliver messages of autism to the public to educate the society. “Autistic people are so unique. They experience the world in a very different manner. But most ordinary people don’t understand them.”
It was a memorable moment for Ben when parents, mostly professionals, with similar autistic children are able to relate from the autism series at his exhibition. The fulfillment he gained is irreplaceable.
“Your life is not about you. Your life is about all the people around you, it is about all the people you can touch, impact, influence, love and all the people that love you.”
“Selfharm”, an acrylic on canvas is his first piece of the autism series. The painting sees a young man curled up in the lengths of robe, wearing a headgear with his eyes closed.
“One of my son’s classmate wore a helmet to class, I was curious so I asked their teacher. He replied that because when the kid feels frustrated and unhappy, he is unable to express himself. As a result, he starts to bang his head against the wall so his mother put a helmet on him.
“I hope that through my paintings, the audience can view those affected by autism through a lens of awareness, compassion, love and acceptance.”
Ben has had his first overseas solo exhibition after receiving the Asia Art Award (Grand Prize) by Asia Invitation Art Exhibition in Seoul, South Korea. He has also been hailed as one of the most promising young figurative painters.
Until now, Ben has also sold eighty percent of his autism series. To view or buy his paintings, visit Ben Chong Art Studio at Block A-10-02, Tropicana Avenue at Petaling Jaya or call Ms Leong, art gallery manager at +6012-6800783.
Text by Jessy Wong • Photos by Ben Chong