“… From idea(s) to the composition of the image, the emotion… the atmosphere… is the most important thing that I want to generate and convey to the viewer. This is all inspired by “YAOI” genre of Japanese manga.”
Arthongkong.net meets with Wong Xiang-Yi (黃向藝)
By MYJade – March 2013
If you meet Xiang-Yi, don’t ever ask if her choice of subjects in her works is inspired by her feminist tendencies. She takes particular offence at the notion that her current exploration of gender, sexuality and ambiguity must stem from some level of female gender related dissatisfaction. That doesn’t mean her work is filled with angst or negativity. Far from it. From the composition of her artwork, she doesn’t appear to place the viewer in the role of a voyeur – rather she pulls the viewer in as an invisible being… on the periphery of private, intimate moments between the subjects. They could be savouring the pleasure of the build up to physical intimacy… languidly enjoying the sensations thereafter… or simply enjoying each other’s company in a sensuous, uninhibited manner. Hands and hair feature as erogenous zones / “connector(s)” between the subjects ~ emoting the delicacy of the moments. If one simply must judge on appearance – Xiang-Yi comes across as your everyday young lady… any streak of anti-anything (if there is) is wholly internal. I observed her interaction within a social group at a Fotanian 2013 event – putting herself under the microscope and opening herself to criticism of her work, and how she gamely faced all questions (awkward or otherwise) head-on and honestly. Her raucous laughter also belies a self-confidence or self-belief… or just plain acceptance that she cannot please everyone, and she’s not going to lose any sleep over it!
You are Malaysian, and it is said you came to Hong Kong on your own to study fine art. How hard was it for you to adjust here in Hong Kong, especially the language factor which must be crucial for fine art!
Until now, even my close friends are also confused about my background. I’m ethnic Chinese from Malaysia, learnt Chinese (Putonghua) since kindergarten and we converse in Putonghua or Cantonese amongst family. So the language factor is not a big problem for me. But the cultural “ assault” during the first year in Hong Kong is all about learning what“Art” is. In Malaysia, the concept of Art is supposed to be about strange, outlandish ideas and objects… and there isn’t a lot of resource available to learn about Art.So my view and understanding of “Art” was vary narrow and limited.Was it easy for you to convince your parents to accept your choice to study Art? What do they think of your
achievement to date?
Fortunately, my parents were most supportive when I chose art as a major. Up till now, they are proud that I can make it as an artist in Hong Kong.
What is your chosen medium for your paintings, and why does it appeal to you?
From idea(s) to the composition of the image, the emotion…the atmosphere… is the most important thing that I want to generate and convey to the viewer. This is all inspired by “YAOI” genre of Japanese manga – that focus on fantasy and love (the “love-imagination”), romance, forbidden all-consuming love, and the ambiguity, is most memorable and I am extremely attraced to it. So I would like to present the feeling of peace, sweetness and comfort.The media and style I chose, Gongbi, is very important in enabling me to help me present this feeling on canvas. Gongbi undeniably is a painting technique that has long tradition and history, like other Chinese painting styles. However, to me it is the simplest and most honest of the styles to adopt in order to present the mental state (internal emotion) of an artist. In my opinion, Chinese painting or Gongbi is not static as a “traditional” style; and to prove this we can see many examples from Mainland China artists. They are trying to give new and different interpretation towards this style and its medium.As for my own artwork, I strive to harmonize the feeling between this style, my medium, and the genre of YAOI, in order to achieve a completely new appearance in this contemporary age.
You are beginning to be known for a particular genre… male sexuality. Yet your subjects are almost always ambiguous, feminine, soft. Will you always pursue this combination for your work? Yes. From what I’ve observed, characters in YAOI manga generally appear to be more slender, good looking and have very effeminate features. This is the representative factor of YAOI.
Do you have interest to explore other mediums, or are you exploring now – if yes what and your thoughts?
In the short term, I won’t change my working medium. Gongbi is too attractive for me and, there is still a lot of aspects to explore and room to improve my own work.What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I have no current project in pipeline, but I do have an upcoming solo exhibition.Name two artists you most identify with or whose works you admire, and why.
I love and am affected by lots of great artists since studying at university. I “reinterpreted” certain works by Egon Schiele, Henri Matisse, Sandro Botticelli, in Gongbi and Xieyi style, under tutelage of my professor Mr. Zhou Jin. I learnt lots from these classic masters, but I can’t say who I admire the most amongst.
Thinking more contemporary, I can say that Mr. Aida Makoto impressed me the most — I love all his artwork even though I always feel less confident about being an artist after thinking about his work. His “Dog” and “Mi-Mi Chan”series rocked my soul! His two works are (part of) my learning materials – they were done using Japanese ink on paper, similar to my chosen medium. Mr. Makoto’s works, elaborating his deepest desire, and delusion, without embellish, affects me greatly. The ideas he presents, though terrifying, may be true. He inspired me and I got ideas on how to intensify my pieces in my own style.
Are you a part of any artistic community (similar to ones in Shanghai or Beijing) – is there anything that can be done by private organisations or the government to improve this?I’m actually quite a private person and a bit introverted, I tend to keep my views to myself. So joining any groups or communities to discuss art is not my thing.I prefer to study other’s artwork on my own, and absorbing all aspects of the piece on my own, and dissecting my responses to it on my own.Do you share your studio with other artists, and do you work part time as well? If yes, how do you organize your time?I’m now sharing my studio with 5 other friends. I work at a full-time job to support myself and fund art expense (buying pigments, framing, transportation). It’s from 11 to 6, so I still have plenty of time for me to paint.
WONG Xiang-Yi was born in Malaysia and now lives in Hong Kong. She graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2010. Her artworks are deeply influenced by the pop culture of Japan, especially ‘TANBI’ comics which often form the basis of her art creation to explore the topic of gender. WONG’s art is known for its fine brushwork. She combines traditional brushwork with contemporary concepts, the results are works that retain the characteristics of Chinese traditional art while being infused with contemporary thinking of the new generations. WONG has exhibited her works in Mainland China, Hong Kong and various other overseas countries. She has earned a number of art prizes over the years. She can be contacted via A·lift gallery.