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Art of self-discovery

Wong Ming Hao has created striking paintings of faces and figurative images, and also learned to feel more confident about himself

08 Jun 2021 / 10:58 H.

WONG MING HAO, who describes himself as a contemporary figurative artist, focuses on faces and figures in his stunning paintings.

He explores every angle of the visage and form through a range of mediums, creating fascinating pieces of artwork.

In most paintings, Wong creates portraits and figures with layers of acrylic paint and gloss gel, highlighting the structure of faces and depicting various expressions. His paintings appear like abstract art, a collage of colours that are contrast and bright, and yet beautiful.

The 33-year-old has drawn portraits of some famous people, including Malaysian leaders such as former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the former president of the United States, Donald Trump.

“I am interested in exploring ideas and images related to a sense of uncertainty and conflict that exists underneath the exteriors of everyday life,” he said.

“I want my work to deliver an experience that one finds familiar, and strange at the same time.”

Fear, insecurity, ulterior motives and other emotions that border the negative are all there in his work.

He enjoyed reading comic books in his childhood and the images have been a creative influence.

“I have always imagined myself as a superhero character, which I used to draw, due to a lack of confidence in myself,“ said Wong.

“Painting was a form of self-release. It became a way for me to examine myself, reconnect with who I am, learn about my true nature or identity and my role in this world.

“Creating good artwork and receiving appreciation from others or winning awards has built more confidence in me.“

Mural painting, sculptural work and commercial illustration are also among his artistic skills.

“Being a part of residency programmes and participating in sharing sessions has helped me to be more confident when talking to strangers,“ added Wong, who is currently a lecturer at Undo Academy of Animation.

What inspired you to become a painter?

When I was young, I saw a dragon, which was drawn by my father. I was amazed that you could create something from nothing, just with a pencil. I started reading a lot of comics and animation to try and imitate the drawings.

I used to draw every day until I joined the Dasein Academy of Art in 2007. After graduation, I worked as a part-time artist, freelancer and teacher for a few years until 2018. Then, I joined an artist residency programme at HOM Art Trans, and began my full-time artist career.

What attracted you to acrylic paintings?

I did watercolor and oil painting previously.

I chose acrylic because it has the ability to dry quickly and can be peeled off for collaging.

What is your main subject or focus of your art and why?

My works discuss the human form and the undercurrent of life. The approach is to exploit its potential to elicit strong associations to suppressed emotions that we are all too familiar with. I also consider it a documentary observation for myself.

What do you want to convey or capture through your art?

All the different emotions no matter good or bad, and also the sense of conflict that we are facing in everyday life. That what you see is not what it seems, there is always something else or back story underneath the front facade or appearance.

What is your latest art project?

Currently, I am working on a series of works for an upcoming two-man show at G13 Gallery in July. I am trying to figure out more possibilities for the medium that I am using.

What is the most memorable artwork you created?

In 2020, I applied to an artist funding programme by Cendana Malaysia. In the project, I had to record all the work progress and turn it into a video at the end. So, I had to record every single step, and take photos.

After all the preparations, I edited it with video editing apps and described the thoughts for each layer of faces with words. It was like a short video of self-discovery. It was quite challenging for me because I had never done something like that before.

What are your future plans?

Hopefully, I would be able to participate in residency programmes and international exhibitions around the world, collaborating with famous galleries and museums.

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