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Interview: Yin Ming Wong's Code Switching

Interview: Yin Ming Wong's Code Switching

Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

Since I was a little kid, I would draw all over the place (walls, furniture) to the point where my parents decided to put me in random after school and recreational drawing classes so I can get it all out appropriately. I have always really loved the visual aspects of films, tv shows, and stories, and these are usually what sparked my illustrations. There is a ridiculous collection of drawings and paintings of birds, sunsets, landscapes, buildings, and characters at my parent’s house that spans the entirety of my adolescence.

They see me rolling, 2021, oil, 36 by 36 inches

In college, I was exposed to more intentional ways of art making and world building, and I began to practice creating my own narratives. This is when my love for making work started to have motivations and methods behind the processes. I began moving in and out of various styles and mediums and also started to collaborate with other people. I have come to realize how important community and discussion is for me as an artist.

Instagram feed capturing inspiration, works in progress

What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

I grew up in the Midwest as a first generation Chinese American. I am the first in my entire, extended family to pursue a creative path and this circumstance really informs the work that I make. Much of what I do comes from an exploration and study of my position as an Asian American and my relationship to my immigrant parents and my cultural heritage.

ping pong study 4, 2021, gouache, 5 by 7 inches

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

Language has been a thread that weaves through my work since the beginning of my practice. At first I was concerned with the nuances that are brought forth or left behind in the process of translation. Before, I used fish as a visual motif to discuss the various symbolisms and significance through both my Chinese cultural lens and American cultural lens.

High stakes, fast pace, skyscraping ping pong, 2020, gouache, watercolor, color pencil, 8 by 8 inches

Now, I paint ping pong and a sad squatting lady; I am more focused on the code switching that happens in bicultural or intersectional identities, as well as the sense of loss one might feel towards their heritage (mother tongue) following migration. I noticed that while I have honed in on more subjective and personal feelings of anxiety or awkwardness in relation to cultural identity, this has expanded the possibilities of discussion on displacement and community in relation to my work.

Grass is greener far away, 2020, acrylic, 30 by 30 inches

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

My parents are a huge part of my motivation to make work and also often make cameos (dad for fish, mom for squatting lady and ping pong). Much of what I do comes from what I learned from watching them take care of themselves and take care of their families after coming to America. I also draw a lot of inspiration from conversations with my brothers and close friends, some being the deeper sappier thoughts and others just from very frank reactions to the things we experience. This is usually where much of my ideas and projects are birthed.

Instagram feed capturing inspiration, works in progress

Where do you find inspiration?

I really enjoy the works of artist Cao Fei, painter Wei Dong, and animation director/artist Masaaki Yuasa. Maryam Hoseini, Cecilia Vinu, Henry Darger, Shinro Ohtake, Hiro Kurata, Katherine Bradford, and Koichi Sato are also some of the artists that I look to. I consume a lot of media like films and anime; Fargo (1996), Shoplifters, Lady Vengeance, House (1977), Mind Game (2004), Space Dancy, and Kuuchuu Buranko being some of my favorites.

Ping pong is my passion, 2021, gouache, 9 by 12 inches

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

Every project of mine kind of informs the next, but not necessarily progressing in a linear way. I move in and out of different motifs to work with, from fish to summer camp, to ping pong and a squatting lady, but they all come from the same big ideas. I think I have a particular attachment to “Ping pong in the meadow next to a forest fire”. This is first ping pong painting I completed with the intention to capture symbolically what I feel is happening internally as I move between my Chinese and American values, language, and expectations. 

Ping pong in the meadow next to a forest fire, 2020, gouache, watercolor, color pencil, 8 by 10 inches

How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

It [ping pong] started with a conversation with a friend and a realization of how interesting ping pong as a sport looks. Then after plenty more conversations, I continued to play with the setting and context of the paintings. I am still trying different things – painting various settings and expressions to try and illustrate the hard to describe feelings of floating between places of belonging.

untitled (better together), 2020, acrylic, 30 by 40 inches

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

I’ve come to realize that hearing from other people is infinitely more rewarding and informative to my practice than any long meditation or research could ever offer. Hearing others speak about their own sense of belonging will always be the most important . I continue to draw from the things people share with me about their own experiences, their own feelings of dissonance, and the interpretations and reactions they have to my work.

mother tongue (shy)(look out !), ceramic, gouache, 3.5 by 3.5 by 4 inches (each)

What are you working on now?

I am trying to improve in painting and amplify my style and compositions to be more narrative and energetic. I have a few work in progresses that I’d like to complete before Summer ends. In the Fall, I’ll begin working towards an MFA in fine arts at School of Visual Arts. At that point, I’ll likely have a studio space and will be able to get back into sculpture and installation work.

ping pong study 1, 2021, gouache, 5 by 7 inches

If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?

In the beginning I was oddly resistant to making work that can be very personal. There was a lot of tunnel vision happening, so I would probably just warn myself against that. Would have saved some time and frustration and sadness, to be honest.

High stakes, fast pace, roof top ping pong, 2020, gouache, watercolor, color pencil, 8 by 8 inches

About the Artist

Based in Brooklyn, New York

Yin is a painter and soap-maker based in Brooklyn. Her work focuses on nostalgia, displacement, and the shortcomings of language, presented through her personal narrative on the experience of being raised with Chinese culture and socialized in American culture. In her free time, she also enjoys watching films and doing sudoku.

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