Hong Kong-born contemporary artist Nicole Wong's practice operates in the space between signs and what they signify. A graduate of Nottingham Trent University (2012) and the Grand Prize winner of the 2013 Hong Kong Contemporary Art Awards, she works across a variety of media, including sculpture, installation, photography and video. Wong's practice is firmly rooted in the conceptual tradition, where the selection, treatment and placement of the objects is as important as the objects themselves.Read More
The gaps between presentation and representation figure strongly in Wong's artworks. The lightbox series Mindscapes (2017), for example, shows images of neurological scans; the title alludes to the erroneous conflation of mind and brain, as though images of the physical brain might also reveal the mind and soul. The passage of time is also a main concern of Wong's—as in Machine (2015), which features a clock with letters spelling 'Go Back in Time' replacing the digits 1 through 12 on its face—as is chance, as seen in Waiting Game (2015), which involves the repeated throwing of a 20-sided die to dictate the inscription of dots on a page.
This exploration of what might be called meta-language is further evident in two of Wong's works, both of which were included in the 21st Biennale of Sydney in 2018. In a series of marble tablets from 2015 and 2016 Wong inscribed the ten most common Google search term suggestions for specific opening phrases, including 'Feelings are', and 'I can't'. The viewer is invited to reflect on the cumulative effect of millions of searches in a visual language (carving in stone) normally reserved for monuments. The Stars: A New Way to See Them (2015), is named for the astronomy book from which Wong took 84 pages and blacked out every word except 'star'. Mounted on aluminium, the words standing out in the expanse of black pages create a constellation-like effect.
There is too an element of wit to Wong's work. She demonstrates an acute awareness of the misapprehension that art is somehow a substitute for language. This can be seen in one of her earlier works, From the Coldest Black to the Coldest White (Seascape) from 2013. A work of simple elegance—ten found books, thematically arranged top to bottom, among them Kazuo Ishiguro's A Pale View of Hills and Virginia Woolf's The Waves, their aligned subjects take us from the skies to the ocean floor. Sitting proud from the wall, the books' bases are enclosed in a cheap frame. The fleeting associations of the titles themselves generate a narrative, the frame reminding us of its 'art' status.
Matthew Crooks | Ocula | 2018