Ng Lung Wai is a talented artist who lives in Hong Kong. His work is a curious mixture of pop culture https://www.nglungwai.com/ and East meets West. I wanted to find out what inspires him, plus ask him why he seems so enamored of Western culture. Here’s our cool chat …
“… Influences meld in my mind and in the artworks. When the references are taken, digested, assimilated and transformed to a new thing, they meld. I am interested in the history of the East and the West. From classic Western architecture to Post Modernism, also research into traditional Chinese constructions and associated meanings ...”
MICHAEL: Hello Ng, Your work is very cool. You seem to really like primary colors and fun, pop culture. Why do you like pop culture so much?
NG: I’m flattered. I like colors – their combinations and associated meanings. As for pop culture, I would say it is about changing with time. I would say pop will not be pop after a while.
MICHAEL: You’ve done numerous “pop” portraits of famous people. Why do you create them?
NG: I’ve collected vintage items for more than 15 years. One day, I kicked a box and opened it. I thought, “Oh My God! stickpin badges from the ‘60s! Then I dreamed about them.”
MICHAEL: When did you first become an artist? Are you from a family of artists? Why art?
NG: No. I do not come from an artist family. I was really a bad student. But I went back to school. I set up my own business 15 years ago doing exhibition services for art museums and centers. I felt a lot, learned a lot, experienced a lot. Then, after those years, I thought I should share what is in my mind with others.
MICHAEL: Wow. How did you go from being a “bad” student to starting your own business? And you started a business in the art world which is even harder because not a lot of people buy art. Was starting your business scary for you?
NG: I dropped out of school at 15, working as a plumber’s apprentice for two years. Working at construction sites, watching different trades and going on to build a building was amazing to me. Then I went back to school, studying really, really hard. Good enough to get to university, I graduated in architecture.
I love design, love space - then I set up my own firm for exhibition design and production services. It was a lot of fun working for a huge variety of shows, with different curators and experts. I learned a lot from them.
My feelings about art, I think they are cultivated through study in architecture and working with museums, with a lot of artworks, artifacts, and exhibits. Historical and cultural stuff came across my mind and filled my heart.
Three years ago, I focused on making artworks as a full-time artist and set up exhibitions to share my works with others. I feel happy and sharing with people makes me even happier.
As an artist, my focus is on making works and sharing. Making artwork does not scare me. You are right, not a lot of people buy art. I know it is tough as an artist. It really depends on what you want to achieve, like artistic excellence, financial independence or other objectives. I am really thankful for my supporters and art enthusiasts.
MICHAEL: I've never been to Hong Kong, but it seems like such a glamorous city to me. However, I bet it's super-crowded with lots of problems too. What's life like there? What are the good things and bad things?
NG: Hong Kong is an interesting place, metropolitan city. Everyone seems to be busy all the time. You can tell by how fast people walk and how long they work. More than 7.3 million people live here, you know it is overcrowding everywhere.
Good things, yes, convenience, an hour or so, we can reach any place in the city. Shopping, eating out and entertainment all are accessible. The unemployment rate is very low. It is a safe city with a good legal structure.
On the other hand, the lack of space and housing is a big issue. It is not generally affordable. Maybe people work for long hours with huge workloads and pressure. They don't smile much.
MICHAEL: So who in Hong Kong buys art? Do everyday working people there even have time for art? Here in America, not many people buy art ... Really only the upper middle class and very rich people.
NG: It is the same here, the rich buy art. Most people seem not interested in or have no time for art.
I think culture is going to develop and change slowly and gradually. As huge museums are built, more international galleries will establish their outposts here. Art Basel and more art fairs are happening. All can enjoy buying art here without sales taxes.
As the art scene is getting more colorful and ambience is good, people can share the benefits and joy of art. More and more people will be interested in art in the near future.
MICHAEL: I see more Western influences and references in your work than Chinese influences. Am I wrong? Why is this?
NG: I would say they meld. Influences meld in my mind and in the artworks. When the references are taken, digested, assimilated and transformed to a new thing, they meld.
I am interested in the history of the East and the West. From classic Western architecture to Post Modernism, also research into traditional Chinese constructions and associated meanings.
MICHAEL: Ng, How do you think Chinese artists are different from other artists in other parts of the world? I do think Chinese artists have a very unique point of view. What do you think about this?
NG: I see every artist as different from the other. Geographically, culturally, yes, we might see some common characteristics among them. As to the way artists seeing things, everyone is different.
MICHAEL: Finally Ng, What is the point of art? Why are you an artist? Does art matter? Why should people care about art?
NG: I think one of the purposes of art is to sharpen our senses to life, as they are weakened by our daily routines. I make artworks and I am happy. I share my works, it makes me happier. Art somehow can change the way people see and do things. I am happily committed to making changes.
MICHAEL: Thanks Ng! Very cool chat.
NG: Thank you so much.
Check out Ng Lung Wai at https://www.nglungwai.com/.