Ng Lung Wai

Ng Lung Wai, Right: Speaker (Orange Datum) I, Acrylic on canvas, 183 x 121 cm, 2016 Left: Speaker (Blue Datum) I, Acrylic on canvas, 183 x 121 cm, 2016

In case you haven’t noticed, artist Ng Lung Wai is very active on Instagram. If you happen to be in the art world, whether a gallery, editor, writer, or curator of note– you may have already received one of his of comments that arrive simply in the form of a heart emoji. The comments which are limited to the five brightly colored hearts from the emoji menu (excluding black), vary in color and seem to be randomly selected. He’s caught my attention and I have been curious about the man who has the stamina and patience to leave so many of these heart comments (which I can only imagine number in the hundreds) on a multitude of art-based images. He focuses on subjects and profiles that are somehow tied to the global world of contemporary art.

I decided to reach out to Ng to inquire not only about his Instagram habits, but also about the art that he makes.

Katy Diamond Hamer: Can you please tell us about your art and the career that you’ve made for yourself?

Ng Lung Wai: I’ve made my works with diverse approaches, using different materials and techniques on themes. For instance, I have made portraits with my collection of vintage items including: authentic stickpin badges, stamps, wooden clothespins, wooden number tokens and more. I always come up with the idea of ‘why not’; there is no end to exploration.

I studied architecture in university. A year after graduation, I set up my own company providing exhibition services to local museums, exhibition centers and governmental departments in Hong Kong. I now have more than twelve years of experience working with different organizations on a wide range of exhibition projects. Topics range and some have been about art, history, science, West and East dynamics, many genres in general. I’ve had a lot of good experiences and accumulated a bunch of ideas. Four years ago, I decided to fully dedicate my time to making art works after I finished a turn-key museum project, a compact museum in a heritage building (Heritage of Mei Ho House). Now I focus on making artwork [with the goal of] sharing them with more people.

KDH:  What has it been like working as an artist in China?

NLW: My practice is mainly in Hong Kong, a tiny part in [relationship to mainland] China. The pace is fast. People walk fast, speak fast, eat fast and almost everything is fast. I try to keep my own schedule making art works.

Katy Diamond Hamer, Instagram screenshot, Heart emoji comment by Ng Lung Wai, 2017

KDH: You first came to my attention through Instagram. You often leave a simple, singular heart comment on the posts of art world figures such as Hans Ulrich Obrist, myself, Brett Gorvy and many others, including art institutions and editorial publications. Have you used this as a technique to bring more attention to yourself and your work?

NLW: The heart emoji I leave on Instagram posts means a heartfelt ‘thank you’. I think people and organizations try their best and put a lot of time into capturing something that results in their posts and [the process of] sharing them with others. I take them in as my quick, global, visual reference, enjoy it and feel I should thank them. As to attracting attention, I have not thought about it.

KDH: What does the heart emoji mean for you? Do you think it represents your own artwork practice in any way? 

NLW: I would say it is a life philosophy. It is not an excessive politeness and is meant to give credits where credits are deserved. Oh yes, the idea of returning good favor to others is somehow partly why I want to make artwork and share it.

Speaking of emojis, I did create something like an emoji and I called it Cheezie. I made a thousand of them with different facial expressions and customs. My hope is that people see them and can find a reason to cheer up no matter how bad a day they have had.

Ng Lung Wai, Right: Montgolfier, Mixed media on wood, 121 x 161 cm, 2015 Left: Speaker (Yellow Orange Cover) I, Acrylic, shirts, timber panels, 117 x 113 cm, 2016

KDH: Tell us about your exhibition history and which you think have been the most successful.

NLW: I began my solo art career in 2015 with the exhibition, “1960s World Celebrity Portraits” at Comix Home Base, Wanchai, Hong Kong, showcasing seven portraits with different materials and techniques, contrasting materials with subjects. Next was, “Out of Dream” in 2016 also at Comix Home Base, with six series dealing with the subject of what I dreamt of socially, historically and culturally. In February of this year, I had the exhibition titled, “It Speaks to Me” at G/F, Open Space, Central Plaza, Wanchai, where I made a large installation [of abstract paintings] showing my exploration of color, paint, material, inner self and social-cultural issues. I would say I am happy with each of these exhibitions and the process of sharing the experience with an audience of thousands. I am fortunate that traditional and social media have helped spread news about these exhibitions.

New Museum, Instagram screenshot, Heart emoji comment by Ng Lung Wai, 2017

KDH: Social media in China is monitored. Has this been an issue for you?

NLW: This is not a big issue for me, though sometimes I make works in a Shenzhen workshop —an adjacent city to Hong Kong on the mainland— where I cannot have access to some of social media.  

KDH: What is your dream for your artwork and your career? What do you have coming up? 

NLW: I do think that one of the purposes of art is to sharpen our senses to life, as they are weakened by our daily routines. Making artworks and sharing them with others working in this direction, would be bliss to me. 

In the past few decades, we’ve experienced major advances in technology, especially communication technology. New concepts, vocabulary and breakthroughs had been made to make a better world. In art, I would be more than happy to try my efforts and make contributions to expand our sphere of knowledge.

As far as upcoming projects, I am currently focusing on three things:

First, I am setting up a slightly bigger atelier of 1,400 sq.ft. with the purpose of making artworks and sharing them with visitors there. The interior renovations will be done next month. Second is making a portrait with 6,000 movable mosaic components re-thinking ideas: legend vs legend, idol vs fans, foreign culture vs local context. It will be mounted on the external wall of a commercial building in Hong Kong this year and exhibited for about two years. Third, I am deep into exploring the relationships between sociocultural issues and the formation of concepts and methodology of making art. 


In the world of social media, you never know how you may catch someone’s eye. On Instagram, Ng Lung Wai is @nglungwai and Katy Diamond Hamer is @katyhamer

More soon. xx