Wong Hoy Cheong
b. 1960, George Town, Malaysia
Wong Hoy Cheong was born in Penang, Malaysia, in 1960. He received a BA in literature from Brandeis University, Massachusetts, in 1982, and an M.Ed. from Harvard University in 1984. In 1986, he received an MFA in painting from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and in 2011 was awarded the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Creative Fellowship. In an attempt to escape the solitude and stasis of painting, Wong now employs mediums that he considers collaborative, and which effectively mix historical depth with human immediacy; he works in drawing, photography, video, installation, and performance. During the 1990s, he developed an interest in the migration of plants. This inquiry led him to investigate human migration and the related subjects of race, colonization, and indigeneity.
In his installation Re:Looking (2002), Wong blurs the divide between fact and fiction in a deliberately unreliable representation of so-called history. In a living-room setting, viewers watch what appears at first to be a factual documentary about the impact of the fabricated former Malaysian Empire on postcolonial Austria. Rooted in deliberate misinformation, the work addresses the media’s influence on public opinion and riffs on the clichés of colonialism. Days of Our Lives (2009) is a series of six photographs exploring contemporary European identity. In these manipulated images, Wong has customized domestic scenes from French paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, to depict migrant populations from former British colonies: Muslim Nigerians, Iranians, Turks, and Burmese. Adapting familiar images of mother and child—as well as Henri Fantin Latour’s La Lecture (1877)—Wong traces the changing face of ordinary life in Europe while excavating the obscured cultural histories of marginalized communities elsewhere in the world. Days of Our Lives thus deconstructs the systems of power that underwrite historical narrative.
Wong has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (1996 and 2004), and at other venues around the world including Kunsthalle, Vienna (2003); Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (2004); NUS Museum and Gallery, Singapore (2008); and Eslite Gallery, Taipei (2010). His work has also been included in group exhibitions internationally, including Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane (1996); Art in Southeast Asia: Glimpses into the Future, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1997); Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial, Japan (1999 and 2009); Venice Biennale (2003); Liverpool Biennial (2004); Guangzhou Triennial, China (2005); Asian Contemporary Art in Print, Asia Society, New York (2006); Naked Life, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (2006); Istanbul Biennial (2007); Taipei Biennial (2008); Lyon Biennial, France (2009); Negotiating Home, History, and Nation, Singapore Art Museum (2011); and PhotoEspana (2011). Wong lives and works in Kuala Lumpur.