LondonWong Ping: Heart Digger
Camden Arts Centre presents the first solo exhibition in a UK institution by Hong Kong-born artist Wong Ping. Wong is the inaugural recipient of Camden Art Centre’s new Emerging Artist Prize (2018) and presents an ambitious exhibition installed across the gallery’s iconic spaces. The exhibition showcases a group of the artist’s most recent animated films, installed within his bespoke installation environments.
Described as ‘sino-futurism’, Wong’s digital and sculptural works combine a contemporary aesthetic with more archetypal content – often employing absurd narratives that reveal very human, and often universal, pathologies and fantasies lurking within the collective unconscious. Drawing anecdotally from his own personal social encounters, he elaborates his stories into darkly humorous tales that touch on political and cultural anxieties, psycho-sexual taboos, and the complexities and perversities of contemporary human relationships. Digitally rendering them in a seductive, technicolour language that recalls the modernism of Fernand Leger, the pop languages of Tom Wesselman or Allen Jones, as well as the design aesthetic of The Memphis Group and early 1980s video games, the simple but seductive animations disguise a deeper social critique of technological modernity.
Two new films – Fables 1 (2018) and Fables 2 (2019) – are populated exclusively by animal characters. Part of a new, ongoing series, they take their form from the anthology tradition of Aesop’s Fables and Grimm’s Fairy Tales: contemporary morality tales re-written for our dystopian and alienated modern age. Wong’s creatures, which include a convicted capitalist cow, a three-headed homicidal rabbit, and a telepathic tree, hold up a twisted mirror to our own humanity, whilst mutated figures with asymmetrical facial features, eyes that have slid down beneath a cheek, or breasts that have grown on an adolescent girl’s back, become the focal points of subversive domestic fantasies.
Narrated in a deadpan Cantonese, the sexually explicit content of Wong’s work has been a consistent feature, but for the artist it is not the subject itself, but rather a universal language through which he communicates more pervasive concerns about identity, fear, mortality and loneliness. It points again to a contemporary condition where physical contact has been replaced by digital communication, romance is brokered through dating applications, and young people interact with friends in the virtual space of computer games and social media sites.
Entirely self-taught, Wong began making animations in his free time, while working as a digital editor for a TV studio in Hong Kong. Initially releasing them through Vimeo and YouTube, his satirical humour and unique visual language soon attracted a large on-line following and he was invited to present the work within an exhibition context. The artist has continued to craft every aspect of the films himself and they retain a very personal quality of the hand-made. He was listed amongst Art Review Asia’s 2018 future greats and was included in the New Museum Triennial Songs of Sabotage and the Guggenheim’s One Hand Clapping last year. For his exhibition at CAC, the artist will create new installations that contextualise the digital materiality of his films with sculptural objects that speak to the mass production of the consumer market.
CAC’s Emerging Artist Prize was established in 2018 as part of the Centre’s commitment to nurturing and celebrating the most innovative artists of the moment, who have yet to receive the recognition their work deserves. The prize awards an artist exhibiting in the Focus section of Frieze London with an exhibition at CAC.
In 2019, Wong Ping (b. 1984, Hong Kong) had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel – Golden Shower – and CAPRI, Dusseldorf, Germany, and won the Ammodo Tiger Short Competition at the 48th International Film Festival, Rotterdam. In 2018 he was included in New Museum Triennial Songs of Sabotage and One Hand Clapping, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, both New York. Wong was artist in residence at the Chinese Centre for Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2015.
Installation view of Wong Ping: Heart Digger at Camden Arts Centre at Cork Street. Photo: Luke Walker