Artists to watch – Interview with Adrian Wong

In celebration of Hong Kong Art Month, we chat to four of the city’s most exciting young artists about how they launched their careers and their plans for the future

Chicago-born Adrian Wong is not your average artist. With a background in research psychology and a Master’s degree from Stanford University, many of his works explore linguistics and human psychology. He has created weird and wonderful shows featuring hot lava, live rabbits and tame chickens. But for his upcoming exhibition for K11 Art Foundation, Wong invites viewers to step through a portal into a garden that is home to an animatronic tiger…

We hear you’re working on a new project for Art Month. Can you tell us about it?
It’s a show that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while. It involves recreating sections of Tiger Balm Garden, which were public gardens in Tai Hang that were demolished in 2004. Essentially it’s an outdoor garden brought inside, accompanied by bombastic lights and sounds and installations. Plus a singing animatronic of a tiger that
sits at the centre of the garden. It’s sort of a sensory overload, a bit like Chuck E.  Cheese’s. The tiger is going to periodically vomit smoke into the gallery space.

You have a background in research psychology. Was is a natural transition going from that to art?
I’ve been making art for a long time but it’s not been an easy natural transition. I was deep in my studies and research in Eastern Europe. I was working in an orphanage in Armenia but because I wasn’t fluent in Armenian I ended up teaching art to the kids. On the heels of hundreds of hours teaching art I started making my own art and  realised I wanted to do something more with myself. It sounds super sappy but that
was the thing that brought me to art and I haven’t looked back.

You’re known to create pretty out-ofthe-box artworks. Where do you get your inspirations from?
Once I stepped away from the very narrow boundaries of developmental psychology, I
started to realise that I found a lot of things interesting. I feel in most fields you end up
specialising until you’re in a box. For me, leaving psychology gave me the go ahead
to start following threads and engaging with fields of understanding that previously had not been open to me.

What fascinates you about Hong Kong?
I’m continually inspired by the city. On a dumb level, I have a lot of personal connections to the city that I’ve still yet to uncover. As a sculptor I’m very interested in the means of production, which led me to meet fabricators and people who make weird things that I have a kinship with. I just love being around that energy.

The Tiger Returns to the Mountain. Mar 20-Apr 29. Chi Art
Space, 8/F, New World Tower 2, Central; k11artfoundation.org. Mon-Sun 10am-7pm.

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