Wong Ping’s animated videos introduce worlds that are divorced from social mores – ARTnews.com


About two years ago Wong Ping was interested in varicose veins. One day, bored while taking the elevator, he noticed her on a passenger’s legs. “I could see them very clearly,” he said in a recent Zoom interview from his Hong Kong studio. He started doing research online and reading about gels that help relieve the discomfort they cause. What would it be like to be a varicose vein?

This investigation eventually formed the basis for Wong’s latest video, which debuted in his first US survey exhibition at the New Museum in New York last June. His practice is to apply dream world logic to real world scenarios. “[I’m] interested in something that is a mix of weirdness and the real world, or something alien that happens in real society, ”he said. “A mix of [here] and somewhere else, maybe something is happening on another planet. It gives people the impression that it’s not real … [but] everything is from my experience. “

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37-year-old Wong is already a sensation in Hong Kong, where he was born and lives. Masturbation, genitals, and mutilation are staples in Wong’s work, but so are animals with strange, strange human fear. Populated with flat, schematic and colorful figures, these animations introduce worlds that are detached from the social mores that govern society as we know it.

Over the past five years, solo exhibitions at venues such as the Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland and the Camden Arts Center in London have made Wong’s taboo-proof work well known on the international art scene. He has come a long way from the days when people in general came across his videos by chance online. But unlike many artists with similar reputations, Wong doesn’t have a studio team – for fear that his animations would be too polished. “You know, if I ask people for help, their skills would be too good for me,” he said. Instead, he works from his Hong Kong office alone, and much of his work is done on his laptop using software such as Illustrator and After Effects, Adobe programs often used in film and television post-production.

Like many artists who mainly work on the computer, Wong’s studio hardly looks like a studio. Wong had reorganized the room after the Lunar New Year celebrations two days before we spoke. “It’s kind of super messy right now,” he said. Apart from the fact that his light-filled apartment with a view of a number of factories resembles a clean, tidy office, with a workspace near a window, a few comic books nearby, and a place to sleep when he wants to spend the night.

Still image

Still from Wong Ping’s Fables 1, 2018.
Courtesy Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Los Angeles

Wong rarely has one completed Script ready when he makes a video. He begins with vague scripts as he wanders through the picturesque mountains of Hong Kong far away from his studio. “I have to go out to write, to think,” he said. “When it’s almost done in my head, I can have the patience to sit down [and animate]. ”(He describes this later phase as“ the boring, repetitive animation part ”.) The scripts germinate from his association of different ideas. The idea of ​​being a varicose vein haunted him to the point of distraction; when he submitted a regular column too late, he writes for a literary magazine, Fleurs des Lettreshe told his editor that he was trapped in a vein. He began to connect the veins with memories of fishing with his friends.

A shelf in Wong Ping's studio with various pieces of jewelry and objects and a large sea foam green lamp.

Objects in Wong Pings Studio.
Kitmin Lee for ARTnews

With a largely completed script in hand, Wong begins drawing digitally in Illustrator, which allows him to create images that appear flat. The process, he said, is similar to “scribbling”. He then imports these files into After Effects, a program typically used by video game designers and visual effects studios to create high-tech images. In Wong’s hands, however, the results are a bit amateurish on purpose – the movement isn’t smooth and the overall look isn’t polished. For the varicose vein video, he merged the images he had been thinking about to create the first shot of the film: a scene in which the varicose vein of an elderly saleswoman becomes a lake (from these fishing memories), the one man, one Deputy, captures for Wong. She then leads him to a personal toilet, where the male protagonist massages her leg in order to escape. It is crucial that he works out of her body and literally tries to carry what is going on in her into the world. “I think people could really open up,” said Wong, “to be really honest with themselves.”

Many artists from Wong’s generation have been inspired by the internet, where more hours of entertainment are available than a single person could ever consume. However, this wasn’t the case for Wong, who didn’t watch a lot of movies or TV shows growing up or spending a lot of time online. Born in the mid-80s, he was instead mainly influenced by comics and anime, with the latter passion inspiring his classmates to name him otaku– the Japanese word for a nerd with an obsession with cartoons.

Interior view of Wong Ping's modest studio in Hong Kong, with a large table, kitchen area, shelves with kitchens and books.

Wong Pings Studio in Hong Kong.
Kitmin Lee for ARTnews

After graduating from Curtin University in Perth, Australia in 2005, Wong lost his bachelor’s degree in multimedia design and took jobs in a printing and post-production department of a Hong Kong studio that produced television series the B-Class. Bored of work, he started playing around with After Effects to create his first animations.

A breakthrough came in 2011 when Wong shot a music video for his friends’ band No One Remains Virgin. Accompanying her song “Under the Lion Crotch”, the video offers the first mature vision of Wong’s phantasmagoric world through a tribute to Lion Rock, an iconic mountain in Hong Kong that looks like a crouching animal. But instead of giving the summit a sacred, transcendental feel, Wong offers a mundane universe where the lion rock is a living, breathing thing with a huge penis. Among other things, the mountain preyed on four bald people jumping rope, two of whom were wearing shirts and reading I❤️HK. Two of them die a gruesome death when the lion mysteriously explodes their heads and splatters blood all over the place. The other two masturbate the lion, the results flood Hong Kong.

Though less obvious to outsiders, the video shows a political bias in Wong’s art; he was involved in the protests in Hong Kong against a planned extradition law. “I would say in each of my work I try to talk a little bit about it,” he said. Within the territory, institutions have been reluctant to exhibit works such as the one Wong published on his Vimeo channel. Politics, he said, “plays a big role in my work, but unfortunately I don’t know anyone who is brave or courageous [Hong Kong] Gallery or museum that would like to show these works. “

Books and other items on a small side table in Wong Ping's studio.

Objects in Wong Pings Studio.
Kitmin Lee for ARTnews

Wong has continued this mode with his ongoing “Fables” series, which he called fairy tales for our digital age. In the first video, exhibited at the New Museum Triennale in 2018, a chicken policeman with Tourette’s syndrome kills civilians, a pregnant elephant prepares for a second act as a Buddhist nun, and a humanized tree lives in fear of cockroaches (like Wong himself ). When applied logically, these videos become incoherent, a fact that Wong pointed out when he submitted the following description for the screening of the second “Fables” video at the Sundance Film Festival: “Wong ping urinates twice before hitting your head gently with his right foot presses down, which gives you a closer look at your own reflection in his urine. “

While his work has been praised by museums and galleries around the world, Wong sometimes misses the days when his audience was mostly curious online viewers who weren’t necessarily aware that they were viewing art. “When people visit a gallery or museum, they have expectations – they read about you, they heard about you, they saw the posters,” he said. “But when I post my work on the internet, I get comments from people who say bad things about me. You know, I really enjoy that. “

A version of this article appears in the August / September 2021 issue of ARTnews, under the title “Wong Ping animates a video”.

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