“I want my art to scream at you.”

Junior Will Ng makes unique, unsettling art. When you look at what he creates, he wants you to be uncomfortable.

Sequoia Wyckoff, Features Editor

painting of a woman with a mask

This painting by Will features a woman in a mask. He wanted it to show the ways in which “the city isn’t all great,” he explained. “You can get stuck in it and eventually it can take you down, and you can get into sort of an emotional pit.” (Photo by Sequoia Wyckoff)

When junior Will Ng walks into the art room, he’s carrying a piece of cardboard as big as he is. He pulls from his backpack a plastic bag of clay and tools. The board, he tells me, will be used to create a wooden frame surrounding a person – the space within the frame will represent their existence within the internet, and the frame’s surroundings will represent their existence without. He’s aiming to capture the idea of being hooked on and controlled by the internet.

Will Ng makes weird, surprising, jarring art. 

For this one, still in process, he’s drawing inspiration from a sculpture by Dada artist Max Ernst with a parallel message about the fashion industry. Dada art is “an anti-conformist art movement,” Ng explained, “that didn’t care about art being pleasing to the eye.” That’s the sort of thing that inspires him.

In fall 2019, and then again for the spring, Ng was accepted into the Emerging Artists program at the Hirshhorn Museum in DC. Through the program, he has access to a community of young artists and an art lab after school. “I go every day,” he said. “It’s underground in the street in front of the Hirshhorn.” He studies art through the lens of the program’s theme, which varies each season. Then, he and the other artists inspire and support each other as they work on an art piece that will be displayed in an exhibit at the museum at the end of the session.

In the fall, he studied vernacular art, or “art that speaks to regular people, not the aristocracy of art,” he explained. He created a clay sculpture of a human with a cavity in the middle of their body, and allowed visitors to the exhibit to pick out the organs and put them in different places.

This spring, he’ll study Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama. He’ll play with the ideas of dreams and nightmares. “Now I have to reach into my inner mindscape,” he said. He’s already keeping a dream journal – he tells me about the beginnings of an idea, of blank white space and a “snake made of hands.” 

Sculpture of a human body with exposed organs

Will created this sculpture as part of the Emerging Artists Program at the Hirshhorn. This was put on display in an exhibit. (Photo courtesy of Will Ng)

He likes the program’s themes: “[The theme] is my favorite thing. It forces you to think differently. When you’re on your own, you can make the same things over and over.”

Even so, he does see and appreciate patterns developing in his art. “Control is one thing I really like to work in,” he said.  “I’m not a fan of authority. I feel like people should be free to choose what they do, and not have to focus on things like the internet, or buying things, and then falling into this trap.”

And most of the time, he doesn’t want his art to be pretty. Often, he wants it to be jarring. Like the work of his favorite manga artists Shintaro Kago and Junji Ito, he wants his art to “scream at you. So when I make my art, it doesn’t have to be traditionally jarring in a horror sense, but I want it to be where you look at it and you think woah, that makes me uncomfortable.” 

 

He brings these ideas to his work at the Hirshhorn – but the Emerging Artists program is just the tip of the iceberg for Ng’s art.

Ng was recently accepted into the VCU arts summer program, where he’ll “produce art, 2D and 3D mediums, sketching and sculpting.” He hopes to go to VCU, where he’ll study “communication arts” instead of fine arts – he describes it as “art if you want a job. Not just art to express art; expression of your inner thoughts is so important, but you can’t survive like that.” And, just like the Hirshhorn themes, Ng sees communication arts not as a limit but as a challenge that stretches his creativity.

Drawing of a woman with a mask

Untitled, by Will Ng. Will created this painting in IB Art class. (Photo by Sequoia Wyckoff)

 In IB Art at Mason, Ng has experimented with mediums to create art he’s proud of, almost always connected to the idea of control. “One of my most proud works in this class is a painting project,” he said (shown right). “It’s a person and they’ve got a skull on their face. They’re smoking a cigarette, and they’re dressed in old French clothes, and it’s supposed to represent how materialism can slowly kill you.”

No matter where he’s working, Ng isn’t fixated on perfection. It’s important to understand, he explained, that “art doesn’t have to look picture perfect, you can make it however you want and how you feel,” he said. On his wall, he has a drawing he did in kindergarten. “It looks terrible but I love it.”

It’s evident that Ng puts meaning first, and through his dedication and passion for art – through countless classes, programs, and thousands of pieces – incredible skill has developed that brings his big, unsettling ideas to life.