Artist Yin Ming uses ping pong as a metaphor for the act of code switching
The dynamics of ping pong provided the perfect vehicle for the New York-based artist, who references “going back and forth between languages and cultures”.
- Olivia Hingley
- 18 January 2023
Ping Pong is a tabletop sport known for its speed, intensity and the often dramatic, deft use of the body, all of which comes across in Yin Ming’s energetic paintings. The series shows a recurring figure clad in a deep red two piece in an array of dynamic postures, leaping and stretching to hit the oncoming ball. Her scenes predominantly take place outdoors; some, in stretches of leafy, rolling greenery, while others take place in a vast expanse of desert, devoid of figures entirely, a lone ping pong table just visible in the distance.
Yin Ming’s interest in ping pong came after a conversation with a close friend. They were discussing code switching, an act Yin describes as “going back and forth between languages and cultures in daily life”. She continues: “We were talking about code switching as Asian Americans and used 'ping-ponging’ to express the experience, and I immediately latched onto a visual of the sport in my head.” Initially painting the sport as a “spectacle” – alongside others like mixed martial arts and dodgeball – Yin now predominantly focuses on ping pong, and how the creation of setting and embedding elements of symbolism can enhance the motif.
Picking up a paintbrush in 2020, Yin first began painting as a means of putting together a portfolio for graduate school applications and residencies, and she is now close to finishing a fine arts MFA programme at School of Visual Arts in New York. Prior to this, Yin studied fine arts and psychology at Parsons, where she mainly worked in ceramic and digital mediums.
Approaching each painting, Yin admits that she doesn’t have “much of a set process”. Instead, she begins each one with a list detailing various factors: how many players there will be; if they will have multiple heads and limbs; what shadow and perspective will be used; where it will be set. “I play around with combining these elements to visually express aspects of language fluency and conversation,” Yin explains. “This is coming from my personal experience of growing up speaking multiple languages and the continuous experience of code switching.”
Touching on the elements of humour throughout the series – facial expressions comical in their exertion, movements of the body caught in awkward, dance-like postures – Yin says that “I probably lean into the lightheartedness because my interest in language and cultural belonging is coming from a place of curiosity and my process of painting is more like play”. Moreover, she expands, using a very physical sport as a metaphor quire naturally breeds elements of humour and absurdity.
But still, at its core the series is one that primarily looks into the complexity of the daily act of crossing cultures, and the unique identities that stem from such occurrences. “It’s interesting because the original idea is so personal and specific to myself,” Yin muses. “But now it’s transformed into a general study on language fluency and expanded discussion of self or other identity.”
Yin Ming Wong: Ping Pong. Ping pong in the desert (Copyright © Yin Ming Wong, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.