Flashing, pop-like imagery; visual and auditory narrations that explicitly touch upon sex, politics and social relations; vibrant installations that extend into three dimensions the artist’s fantastical animation world – these are but cornerstones of Wong Ping’s (b. 1984, Hong Kong) practice that combines the crass and the colourful to mount a discourse around repressed sexuality, personal sentiments and political limitations. Hong Kong born and raised, Wong Ping discusses his observations of society, from teenage to adulthood, using a visual language that sits on the border of shocking and amusing.
Running throughout Wong Ping’s animation work is the concept of control or limitation. In a sexual sense, Wong introduces the poles of desire and obsession – animating, illustrating and describing acts or scenarios that are brutally honest, or indeed, compose our personal, ‘evil’ shame. In ‘Doggy Love’ (2015), for example, Ping tells the story of a repressed male teenager who becomes crazy about a girl who has breasts on her back. The animation follows his incapacity to control himself sexually till they fall in love and he ultimately understands the concept of the heart. On the opposite side, ‘Jungle of Desire’ (2015) follows a grown man’s self-loathing as he is incapable to fulfill his wife sexually, and who ultimately succumbs to at-home prostitution and is taken advantage of by a cop. Depressed and incapable, he speaks of taking to the hills and indeed his own life. Herein one starts to understand that despite the flashing, bright-coloured imagery, there lies a darker undertone to Wong’s animation. ‘The Other Side’ (2015), commissioned by M+, is a two-channel installation that uses the story of a man’s reluctant birth, key junctures in his life, and his attempt to reenter his mother’s womb, as a metaphor for the process of immigration.
Indeed, beyond the film’s pop-like appearance, the animation seems to reflect on the changing status quo of Hong Kong and to present a somewhat dystopian outlook. Such humour laced with weariness is also found in further films such as ‘An Emo Nose’ (2016) that tells the story of a man’s heart-shaped nose that moves away in distance from his face with every negative thought. Akin to Pinocchio’s ‘lying nose’, the man starts off as one with his friend: socialising, enjoying the small things in life from watching movies to meeting women. The nose moves away, however, with every damaging thought till the point where the narrator can no longer see it, just vicarouly smells and thereby ‘lives’ through it, leaving him behind to be a social outcast or ‘emo’.
Ultimately, however, Wong’s animations are not meant to be discouraging. They are happy, in a twisted yet realistic way, despite their fantastical scenarios and appearances. They also provide through their rawness a sense of comfort in that even our deepest and most private sentiments or acts are shared by others. In this way, Wong’s work is liberating – a cathartic twist on the trials rooted in daily life.
As one of Hong Kong’s most exciting emerging artists, Wong Ping has been commissioned to create works by significant institutions including ICA Miami, Kunsthalle Basel, Guggenheim, M+ and NOWNESS. He was awarded Camden Arts Centre Emerging Arts Prize at Frieze, Huayu Youth Award Jury Prize, Young Artist Award by Hong Kong Arts Development Awards and more. He has held solo exhibitions at major institutions including Centre Pompidou, ICA Miami, Camden Arts Centre, Kunsthalle Basel; and participated significant exhibitions internationally at MUDAM Luxembourg, OGR Torino, Guggenheim Museum, New Museum Triennial, Ural Industrial Biennial, amongst others. Wong’s work is held in several permanent collections including Centre Pompidou, Paris, M+, Hong Kong, KADIST, Paris/San Francisco, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, MoCa Busan, amongst others. His animation films have been presented at numerous film festivals worldwide, including the famous Film Festival Rotterdam, Sundance Film Festival, London Short Film Festival, and Kino der Kunst. In 2019, his film ‘Wong Ping’s Fables 1’ was the winner of The Ammodo Tiger Short Competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, who gave a special mention to its sequel ‘Wong Ping’s Fables 2’ in the following year.