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Interview: Andrew Wong


CHINOISERIE

16 x 20 inches, acrylic and paper card stock on canvas, 2022


1) Could you introduce yourself? Where do you come from, and when did you first start walking on the path of an artist? Hello, my name is Andrew Wong, born and raised in Hong Kong, came to the US in 1994 when I was 15, it was mainly because my parents were unsure the unforeseen future of Hong Kong after the handover to China from the British government in 1997. As you know how typical the asian parents, I was fortunate enough that they allow me to go to college for fashion design and I was working in the industry for about 10 years after graduating in 2001. I had stopped all jobs that were related to art and design for a good few years until the start of the Pandemic in 2019. Covid stay-at-home-order changed priorities in life as we all had to stay home, and out of the blues I picked up few cardboard boxes scrap and started making things ( mainly for kids’ activities like pinball machine, skeeball machine, store front, etc ) and I believe that sparked my interest towards creating once again. I didn’t consider I was an artist until I’d say late 2022, I had such a difficult time identifing as an artist even when i had my first group show, and that was when I met you! 2) Why do you engage in portraiture, figuration, and representation? What pulls you towards a representational image making and the concerns of mimesis? What is there that pulls you in the outer appearance of things that gives you a glimpse of something true and beautiful inside? Is the outer appearance more important to you than the inner truth or vice versa? When the idea of me “ being an artist “ came about , I thought the idea of identiy was important. If I were going to make art, I wanted to tell people who I am , where I come from, the subject matter I’d like to portray, and portraiture was a very direct approach for me to tell that story. Who am I depicting, what’s the story behind these portraits, every portrait has its own story and I found that fascinating. I care about the outer appearance as much as I care about the story to be told, at the end of the day, I want people to hang a “ beautiful “ picture on their wall.

The Opera Singer

24 x 30 inches, acrylic and paper card stock on canvas, 2022

3) Why do you simultaneously abstract and break down the illusion of representation by using paper collage rather than a brush or pencil? The paper collage, which are neatly arranged and condensed, colorful patterns of long and thin strips of paper, carry information about the subject in an abstract format, and they also create texture and shadows. Why paper? There weren’t that much thinking at the beginning honestly, the reason I chose paper because I was running out of room in my house lol, I needed to change the things I was making and the medium from large scale cardboard boxes models to something I can easily stacked and store, paper was the next best thing and easily accessible. What I tried to do was actually figurative, but the technique somehow broke it down itself into slightly more abstract. I love the idea of using light and perspective , how we can interact with the art as we/ light moves. I personallly often find interactive art to be mesmerizing and I was just trying to copy what I like. 4) The thin and long strips of paper remind me of long silence in a page of a book or a small strip from a fortune cookie. But the paper contains no text. Why no text in the paper strips? Do they perhaps represent silence? Or do you not want to concern yourself with textuality but purely focus on visual and formal aspects of an image as an artist? You just gave me an absolutely brilliant idea my friend !! Wow, can I steal it please ?! Fortune cookie text, that would be the perfect material to make a very interesting portrait as a Chinese American ?! Com’on now lol ! Seriously, I am going to have to steal it, don’t be mad at me haha. No text ( in the beginning ) because I saw the paper more like paint, I pick them up and mix the paper color together as I were “ painting “ with them. Creation is progression and evolution, but I need to be very comfortable with the technique first before I move on, I believe that’s the idea behind 10,000 hours by Malcolm Gladwell ? I actually did one with text, I cut the words out as paper strips and use them for the Anonymous portrait, I guess it all depends on the context of the art after all.


The Emperor

24 x 30 inches, acrylic and paper card stock on canvas, 2022

5) A follow up question would be - how do you source paper as your materials? What if you used strips of newspaper, magazine paper, and book pages, which you would cut and color, for your future works? Would this synthetic approach bring about a new direction that rings true to you? Or are you against synthetic approach and/or hybrid approach involving text? I chose to use paper cardstock because its archival ability , synthetic or not isn’t an important factor for me, I wouldn’t rule out any material as long as it helps to tell the story. 6) How do you use color in your work? How do you achieve color harmony and beauty? Do you rely on personal instinct and vision or certain established paradigms and teachings, such as the concepts of complementary or analogous color? Color choices are instinctual for me. But I believe that “instinct” could also be based upon the years of learning of the theories as well. 7) How do you represent Chinese, Chinese American, and Asian cultures in your work? How does one differentiate between cultural appropriation and appropriate cultural representation? How does hybridity in an age of globalization affect the ideas of authenticity and tradition? the majority of portraits I have done so far are referencing from Chinese and Chinese culture. I’ve come to realized this intersectional identity of me being born and raised from Hong Kong ( British + Chinese ), and now living in the States as an American Chinese ( USA + Chinese ) are unique and personal. I will continue building my artwork upon this cross path of the contrast, I like the idea of surprise, for example it could be a Chinese traditional opera singer but I use very contemporary color, it could be a very intricate and serious piece and at the end I throw a banana on it, ( by the way, the banana it us being asian in America, no matter how white we are inside, we will forever be seen as “ yellow “ from the outside “ , etc. The biggest difference between cultural appreciation vs appropriation for me is that appreciating a culture , u r actually learning, researching and through this new experience, you are honoring the culture, or maybe it could just simply something you admiring from that culture in some way. whereas appropriation is when someone is dishonoring or demeaning that culture without much understanding and often time maybe appropriating for a self interest ? It could get blurry and to your point, too much story you have to tell and explain yourself perhaps ? Maybe it is much easier to tell your own story, that’s truth you don’t have to explain to anyone. 8) Racism and ignorance of mainstream Americans often de-humanize the Chinese and the Chinese American culture and people. How do you humanize them to resist the negative stereotypes? What do you think about archetypes, and are your images concerned with archetypes? You can’t, and it is a waste of time to defend yourself against these people who have no respect to others and to themselves. I ignore them, try to at least. Good question with archetypes, and I think it perhaps the story to be told needs to be even more specific and personal ? The images I made weren’t much ideology behind them tbh, I wanted to take the opportunity to portray minority groups of people here in America, ( being minority and “masked" were a common thread we share that could linked all us together for the show ) and I also looked at it as a fashion designer, are they atheistically pleasing, are they interesting to look at etc. so no, I wasn’t concern about archetypes.


Escaping Hair

16 x 20 inches, paper card stock on illustration board, 2022

9) Do you use references for your image making process? How do you arrive at the final image? Do you copy parts of the reference image, or do you internalize and recreate the information in the reference image using your conscious and subconscious mind and artistic instinct? I would have an image in my head first and I would then go look for reference pic, and often time, I use multiple images for reference, I would take part from this pic and part from that pic ( its kinda like how we would put a fashion collection together now I think of it ? ) , yes I make changes to reference and is why I often use multiple images to recreate the image I imagine. 10) What are the advantages and disadvantages of committing to paper collage as your main mode of image making?


I started calling this technique “ lifting” ( gluing edge of paper perpendicularly to the surface ), I was thinking when we paint, we put down the paint of the canvas whereas I “ lift “ these color up and above the surface of the canvas.

The challenge is that they are harder to rework as compare to painting. U cannot be as fluid , they are MUCH more time consuming and labor intensive. And there is a much longer period of the “ ugly phase “ when u start doubting if you can make it work or not. The advantage thou, it provides an instant “ wow effect “ , I hope =P ?


The Ballet Dancer

30 x 40 inches, acrylic and paper card stock on canvas, 2023

11) Who are your favorite artists that you are currently following and are excited about? How do you engage in critical theory and contemporary discourse as an artist? Favorite artist is Yulia Brodskaya, she is the master of paper quilling, she is THE artist that I came across and inspired me to make paper art. Not exactly sure the second part of the question though? 12) What are your plans for the future? What is your biggest dream? How do you plan to bring it about into reality within your lifetime? Ahh The big question! U know what, honestly I don’t have that BIG dream yet, I think we ought to see further but only when we climb a little bit higher. If I have to give you answer right now thou, to be able to create and make art only, yet, not need to worry about money to provide for my family sounds like a lovely live to me. ^^ I think goals are important though, but I try to take one step at a time, I would love to find a representation in a gallery in New York in the coming year.

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