Ocean Wong is an artist, illustrator, and photographer from Hong Kong now living in Boston. Ocean and I caught up via phone on the first of July to talk about their art, and their art as it relates to gender, their experience growing up in Hong Kong and travelling around the world, as well as the current protests happening here, but also in Hong Kong.
Boston Hassle: Who is Ocean Wong? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Ocean Wong: Ocean Wong is an artist that came from Hong Kong. I am an illustrator who is really focused on concept and story telling. Watching a lot of cartoons and anime as I was growing up has been a really main source of information to me. I think it is a really good vehicle to deliver messages. I want to be spreading really important messages through my work and I feel working as a concept artist is the best for me.
BH: Tell us a bit about your photography?
OW: I started photography when I was pretty young. With a phone camera at first, then a small compact camera. So I think around 2010 was when I started trying to do film photography and it was really interesting. The way that film photography makes you think about the composition before you press the button. It really made me think about what kind of picture I am taking before I take it.
BH: How does being a queer, non-binary artist shape you as a creator or storyteller?
OW: As a queer identified person, I really want to make sure the work I am putting out there wants to include diversity no matter if it is gender or raced based. And I usually try to stick closer to what I know because I think that will be true to my experience. So a lot of the work I do includes non-binary people as main characters. A lot of the time too, where the story is based is often in Asia, where I know more about and would like to talk more about it.
BH: How does being from Hong Kong shape you as a creator?
OW: It’s easy to miss that Hong Kong is actually such a diverse place when you’re growing up and I want to celebrate that in my work. There is also a lot of racism within Hong Kong too and I want to address that in my work too, eventually. We have a lot of people living there not only from the UK but also we have a lot of people from a lot of places in Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, there is definitely a class inequality there with Indonesian and Phillipino workers, they are usually cleaners and helpers. They need more protection in the law, but they are a part of Hong Kong. When we talk about Hong Kong nowadays there is a very important identifier there. I identify as a Hong Konger rather than a Chinese person. And that is for everyone who lives there no matter if you are Filipino, Indian, Chinese.
If you lived there you would know Hong Kong is a very unique place.
BH: Do you see any parallels between what is going on there and here in the States?
OW: Oh yeah big time, when the protests first started, because this is my home town I followed the news very closely, I followed all the journalists that were reporting live from the ground. It was very difficult to follow when you have the time difference too. It will be like I am going to bed and everything is kind of going down and you are really witnessing police brutality live feed right there and then. Seeing the protests happening here it is very similar. It is a little frustrating seeing that a lot of people were saying there were no casualties in Hong Kong, the protests there because they were all covered up.
You would know if you were following the news closely. I was able to, when it got too much towards the end of the year last year, I had to tell myself I had to stop following all these twitter accounts because it was getting to be too much. But now with the protests happening here I cannot unfollow it or anyone ever because everyone that I am following are my friends and all the information is important to pass on to other people. It is similar, the type of police brutality tactics, it is really like watching the same thing all over again.
Follow Ocean on Twitter: https://twitter.com/oceannbreaths
And check out their websites for more of their art and photography:
This interview was edited for length and clarity
Chris Hues is a human & writer from Boston, Ma & Associate Editor of bostonhassle.com. //// They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @crsjh_ via instagram & twitter.