Wong Hoy Cheong challenges audiences to reconsider notions of ethnicity, indigeneity, colonialism, marginalised histories and community. Currently based in Kuala Lumpur, Wong's work is heavily formed by his upbringing in Malaysia, a country he views as one of the world's most multi-ethnic and multicultural.
Working across a wide range of media including drawing, painting, photography, video, installation and performance, Wong's work tends to be collaborative, bringing history together with intimacy. For his 2002 installation Re:Looking, he created a faux-documentary exploring the impact of the fictional former Malaysian Empire on postcolonial Austria. Presented in a Malaysian living room and riddled with misinformation and false claims, the 'documentary' addressed the subtle clichés of the media, and film industry's sway on public opinion.
Wong's practice is often concerned with exploring Malaysian identity in such indirect ways. For his 2008 'Maid in Malaysia' light box series, the artist photographed Malaysian housemaids in the guise of heroines from literature and Hollywood films. Characters included Joan of Arc, Lara Croft, Mary Poppins and Supergirl. This re-appropriation of Western popular culture into Malaysian life addresses the idea of 'norm' versus 'other', while at the same time celebrating seldom represented and often underpaid domestic workers. Similarly, in his 2006 'Chronicles of Crime' series, he offers a Malaysian take on classic film noir and gangster crime dramas.
Wong presented minority and immigrant communities at the forefront in his 2009 'Days of Our Lives' series. Named after the long-running US soap opera, the series comprised six photographs of domestic scenes from French paintings in the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts. In his photographs, Wong re-enacted and manipulated the paintings to depict the new face of Europeanness by replacing the original figures with migrants from former British colonies, such as Muslim Nigerians, Iranians, Turks and Burmese.
Wong's artistic practice is also influenced by his education in the United States, which provided a new perspective on his areas of concern. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature in 1982 from Brandeis University, Massachusetts, a Master of Education in 1984 from Harvard University and a Master of Fine Arts in painting in 2011 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has exhibited at Singapore Art Museum (2011); Eslite Gallery, Taipei (2010); the Lyon Biennale (2009); and National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2004 and 1996). Among some of his accolades are, to name a few, receiving a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency Fellowship (2011), being named one of the ten art and culture Leaders of the Next Millennium by Asiaweek (1999) and Cornell University naming a scholarship after him in 1993 for his work as an educator.