ARTIST: NORM YIP (葉灃)

***DISCLAIMER: CONTAINS MALE NUDITY***

Biography

Norm Yip (葉灃) was born and raised in Canada by Chinese parents. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) in 1984 at the University of Saskatchewan and his Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1989 at the University of Toronto. In 1994, he moved to Hong Kong where he worked as a project architect for Wong & Tai Associates Ltd and RTKL International Ltd before pursuing his greater interest in art and photography.

In 1999, he co-founded the art collective Meli-Melo Artists Alliance (MMAA) where he curated several exhibitions with artists such as Gavin Tu, Neung and Oksana Movchan from Hong Kong, Thailand and Canada.

Shortly thereafter, he formed his own photography company Norm Yip Photography, in addition to Studio 8, a semi-public photographic and art space located in the district of Sheung Wan — where he hosted private and selected exhibitions in all three mediums of photography, painting and graphite.

As a photographer, Norm’s work has appeared in HK Magazine, WHERE, Global Investor and American Express’ Centurion magazine. Celebrities he has photographed include Zhang Yimou, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Destiny’s Child and Korean pop-star Rain.

Norm is recognized for his fine art photographs of beautiful and sensuous Asian males. His work has been featured in ‘2Blue’ and ‘Dreamboys 2’, both special edition of Blue magazine, known for its excellence in fine art male photography. His photography of Asian men has been subject to thesis graduate work in RMIT (Australia) for it’s cultural impact sociologically and culturally.

Norm has taught photography courses at The Open University of Hong Kong and has been a guest lecturer at Hong Kong Art School. In addition, he has been invited by the Cathay Camera Club to act as a judge in their monthly photography competitions.

Norm provides a unique approach to the way he sees, whereby both his interest in fine art, and his training in architecture and design, are intertwined in his work, whether it be photography, painting or drawing — fusing both western and eastern concepts both conceptually and visually. In 2008, he moved his studio to Chai Wan, an industrial neighbourhood, where he continues to photograph, paint and draw.

 

What does Balaclava.Q mean to you?

The proposal offered by Stiofan O’Ceallaigh for Balaclava.Q is engaging. The balaclava headgear is something I have seen before, although I have never known it this by this name. Being born in Saskatchewan, Canada, where winters can reach below -40 Celsius, I have fond memories of wearing it. As a child, my innocence didn’t allow me to see beyond its connotations, and for what it could mean as an adult. Balaclava delves into the realities and controversies, fantasies and imagination of being queer in today’s harrowing and exciting time.

The masks that the LGBT people/community wear can be seen both in the light of fear or fantasy. The marginal societies know this more than the centralised, and this is certainly seen in the city of Hong Kong where I live. The city, known more for it’s hovering skyscrapers and sheer density of people; there is no sense of privacy. People’s personal space is small; housing accommodations are frightfully small. Because of this, personal space is small too by which we live in. Add to this the close-knitted culture amongst Chinese families, there is an enormous pressure for the local Hong Kong Chinese of LGBT orientation to be other than who or what they are.

Sexuality, nudity and porn are all categorically lumped into one bowl of soup. It is not looked upon highly. Yet there is the distinct sub-culture of BDSM, fetishism and naturist groups that exists in Hong Kong, and hence the mask. They hide and form their own alliances within intimate groups. It was like this even for gay after-hour parties, where a small club would open at 5am in the morning, only known to the drug-inducing crowd of pristine muscled bodies. That too became a sort of hidden gem of illegal intoxicating pleasure. They were intense and blurred, but you could feel a sense of belonging. Today, the mask remains both in and out of the closets in this city. The promotion of yoga, health and self-awareness has brought about an increasing sense of positive vibe into the households, and hiking through Hong Kong’s luscious country-side has the become norm. But upon closer inspection of the grounds we will see condoms strewn everywhere — at least they were playing it safe.

Artist Norm Yip (葉灃) has kindly granted Balaclava.Q permission to present and promote works from his series: Adam, The Snake Charmer, Asian Male Project, Ulysses & Wilson and Persona.

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Adam

The interplay of body projection to the theme of Christian-based images of Jesus and Mary and other Biblical paintings. Collaboration with Bhisan Rai in the styling and concept and modelled by Adam.

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The Snake Charmer

The exotic beauty of Janice meanwhile with projections of snakes provide an interplay of symbolism and eroticism alluding to sexuality and danger.
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Asian Male Project

The images that are showcased here are but a few of the many photographs that were taken for The Asian Male Project, which began as an investigation or study of photographing body forms in hopes of emulating the work of Herb Ritts. This was in 1999. My first subjects were friends Nelson and Hans, a couple that goes to the same gym where I worked out. It was done in a shared workspace called Meli-Melo with two friends Betty Cheung and Wilson Chik. The images of Nelson and Hans was met with rumours that were not so flattering, but it sent out a message to people that Asian men could be seen as objects of sensuality and beauty. I continued collecting more images from friends and their friends, and soon enough, I published my first book ‘The Asian Male – 1.AM’. Shortly thereafter, in 2007, I published my second book The Asian Male – 2.AM. There was certainly a hunger and thirst for such images. The images are not meant to be conceptual, painful, nor glamourized. They are far more simple in its intention. Conceptualisation for me was not important to me; it was more the aesthetic of accepting myself and my own ethnic beauty. You see, before I arrived in Hong Kong, I was not attracted to Asian men. Hong Kong was cathartic in exposing my own desire for love and attention through the beauty of the guys I met. Asian men could be beautiful; so then could I?

The Asian Male Project Website

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Reclining Cyrus, 2014
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Feels like I don’t belong, 2014
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Reclining Cyrus, 2014
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Ulysses & Wilson

The twisting bodies of Ulysses and Wilson during a dance rehearsal taken many years ago was an opportunity to experiment with long exposure photography. The two accomplished and eager dancers were connected tenuously with a piece of material as they both moved and stretched to create tension between each other. From a photographic viewpoint, if the tension was lost, the image became static and uninteresting. It was as if tension was what created excitement and visual interest. This could reflect our constant state of flux in our lives in order to progress and evolve to the next stage.

Photographed using the Contax 139 matched with the 28mm Carl Zeiss lens. Shot on Kodak TMax400 film.

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Ulysses & Wilson, No. 1, ~ 2005
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Ulysses & Wilson, No. 2 ~ 2005
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Ulysses & Wilson, No. 3 ~ 2005

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Persona

In my work while creating the animals in the Seven Sacred Sins series, I felt that the medium of image transfer could be also be used in creating strong portraits of some of the Asian men I had photographed. As it was, I was right. The mysterious qualities distressed medium lent itself well to portraits, and in some cases of the human body.The pieces are all painted and transferred onto plywood, reminding me of an era of woodcutting as precious as the self portraits by Albrecht Dürer, but by no means as accomplished nor refined.

Portraits to me are very difficult to photograph. They should translate beyond the facade and into the depths of the soul, the inner voice of the person. Yet we all have something unique for each of us, which is conveyed physically through the constructs of the human body, face and the environment that surrounding the individual. This package becomes our persona, the manifestations of the non-material into form and structure, as without it, we are nothing (or ‘no-thing’).

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I know you; you know me, No. 1, 2015, Mixed media on wood, 41 x 61. HK$20,000
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Heaven is here, 2015, Mixed media on wood, 41 x 61, HK$39,000
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Creation, not by chance, No. 2, Mixed media on wood, 44 x 30. HK$26,000
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Will you remember?, 2015, Mixed media on wood, 30 x 44, HK$22,000

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You can explore more of this artists works by visiting the following:

All works were kindly supplied by the artist.

Please contact the artist before using them.

Thank you.

3 thoughts on “ARTIST: NORM YIP (葉灃)

  1. The work here is stunningly beautiful and the text on the Asian Male and the cultural deconstruction fascinating – love the sentence “Sexuality, nudity and porn are all categorically lumped into one bowl of soup.” I love the light projections in both the Adam and Snake Charmer images and the Persona images are stunning. Brilliant work that has deeply moved me! I will definitely be returning to these images for my own further inspiration. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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