Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wordplay: An Artist Studio Visit with Fung Ming Chip

A week ago while I was in Hong Kong, I spent a lovely morning visiting the Sai Ying Pun studio of self-taught artist Fung Ming Chip, whose work has been included in collections at the Met and LACMA.

Fung Ming Chip in his studio (also his and Yim Tom's
home) showing me and fellow Chicagoan Inez Suen
his calligraphic artwork.

Thank you again, Ming and Yim, for welcoming me into your home, for your hospitality (tea, food, hugs), and—Ming—for waking up hours before you normally do to meet me (he usually gets up after noon—hashtag artist life).

Ming deconstructs Chinese calligraphy and pushes the medium in directions I never thought possible. With all the layers and depth, his pieces are “unphotographable,” and that need to see them in person is kind of the distinction between East vs. West; there’s an intimacy with traditional Chinese art in general, and before you open a scroll you don’t know what you’re about to find—you’re in for a surprise each time.

Also… Ming doesn’t have a website or anything, so you really do have to see his work in person!

Ming is also a photographer and showed us Polaroids he took back in the day.

If you’d like to reach Ming, get in touch with Yim Tom. She’s the wonderful woman I met at the Art Basel VIP Private View—in the Collectors Lounge someone called my name and it was a Chicago friend, Inez Suen, and Inez was there with Yim—and was the one from whom I learned “about how British colonial rule deliberately suppressed the development of culture and national identity in Hong Kong” (one of my “truth bombs” in my caption for this photo of me on Instagram and Facebook). And she and Ming are married, and they’re the perfect pair.

Monday, April 9, 2018

ABC in HK // Nathan Tseng

ABC in HK is a new mini interview series amplifying the voices of Chinese Americans who’ve returned to their roots / motherland, whether it’s for work or any other reason. These are their stories, their struggles, their triumphs, their dreams.

If you’re a Chinese American (either an ABC—a.k.a. American-born Chinese—or Chinese who grew up in the US) currently living in Hong Kong and would like to participate, see the call here.

I’m back (from—no surprise here—Hong Kong), so this project is too. For its return, meet Nathan Tseng, and ABC who actually spent his adolescent years in Hong Kong before moving as an adult. His description of an “identity crisis”—feeling more American when in Hong Kong, feeling more Chinese when in America—is something many can relate to.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Tseng

Name: Nathan Tseng

Title & Occupation: Web Developer at Spacious.hk

Where you were born and grew up: Cupertino, CA

When you moved to Hong Kong: I actually first moved to Hong Kong at the age of 10 in 1994 and went to high school here. I moved back to the US for college and then came back again in 2011 for work.

Why you moved to Hong Kong: First time was with family. The second time I came back was myself wanting to try out the job market here. I was also in a long distance relationship with my now wife.

Tell me a little about yourself! Basically, what’s your story?

My parents are originally from Hong Kong, but they both immigrated to North America in their teens: my mom to Canada following the riots of 1966 and my dad to the US for college. When I was born, my dad was working in Cupertino and I had a typical suburban upbringing during my formative years. Although Cupertino is considered a majority Asian suburb these days, it was mostly white back then and that’s how I remembered it. Since my parents had spent so many years in North America, I actually spoke mostly English at home unlike many other Asian families we knew.

When I was 10, my grandpa convinced my dad to move back to Hong Kong to help out with the family business. Moving at that age, especially to another country, was difficult. Although I had travelled to Hong Kong a number of times, living here was a different story. Making new friends was difficult, and so was getting used to the densely populated city life. My parents sent me to international school and I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been had I gone to a local Cantonese speaking school. On the other hand, because of that, I think it took me a long time to understand local Hong Kong culture, which I eventually came to love and appreciate.

I went back to the States for college, first UT Austin for undergraduate and then University of Washington where I did a Masters in Urban Planning. I didn’t quite follow my father’s footsteps; I guess I was still trying to discover what my interests were after those years living in Hong Kong. I did experience some reverse culture shock moving back to the US. For example, football is very big in Texas and I didn’t quite understand the hype since it wasn’t something I kept up with living in HK. I joined some Asian American groups, but also realized that my life experiences differed from theirs; many people I met hadn’t even been to Asia before!

In 2011, I was living in Seattle and while I enjoyed it there very much, I wanted to try the job market in Hong Kong because of my interest in urban development and planning. Unfortunately, being a planner meant I needed native Chinese language skills and sadly my written Chinese skills weren’t up to par. At that time, I decided to stay here though, since I started seeing my now wife, whom I married last Christmas. I ended up doing a few odd jobs, including part time English tutoring, before I ended up getting a job at Spacious, a local online real estate platform, as a software developer. Funny how I ultimately ended up following my dad’s footsteps in a way!

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