Leung Lok-hei, Giraffe
J: What prompted you to become a full-time artist?
L: I studied visual arts during secondary school and afterwards worked in interior design. As a young person, I wanted to explore different creative media and so I left my day job to fully immerse in the arts. Back then I had no formal arts training which made it harder for me to gain exposure, so I promoted my own works by posting images of them in forums online. To my surprise, they went viral, and I received media attention and exhibition opportunities which paved the way for me to become an artist.
J: How did you select the material or medium for your works?
L: The medium and theme of my works are always interconnected for better storytelling. Examples include using leaves to raise awareness on environmental conservation, and coins to construct memories of Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s 20-cent coin is special in having a wavy-edged shape, making it the perfect vehicle for reflections on our unique culture and historical background.
White Michelia leaves | 2018
J: What are your views on art making? What topics are you interested in?
L: To me, the concept and process of art making are more important than the composition and outcome. Whatever may be my personal opinions, I seldom express them directly in my works, in order to give more thinking space for the audience to develop their own interpretation and meaning. I care about matters related to Hong Kong – be it local culture, collective memories, or architecture and urban development.
Digital print on photo paper | 2021-2022
Digital print on photo paper | 2021-2022
J: Can you tell us more about “What the hell am I looking at?”, your upcoming exhibition at PMQ?
L: What the hell am I looking at? originated from the realisation that I had been spending more than three hours daily on the mobile phone and internet, yet was unable to remember what I have actually seen. With this in mind, I placed a plastic sheet on top of the TV / computer screen while the programmes were running, and used marker pens to draw all the colours appearing on the screen onto the sheet, thus forming an abstract painting.
I later sought out to freeze frame on images of trending topics and popular personalities, such as the lead singer Keung To of the popular Hong Kong boy band Mirror, celebrated swimmer Siobhán Haughey, ViuTV programme be ON game, YouTube channel Trial & Error, Marvel movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Netflix series Squid Game, Japanese manga Demon Slayer, and Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect John Lee’s press meetings. I changed to oil markers for making collage-like layered images, and leave them for the viewers’ own interpretation.
I also experimented with painting directly onto the screen of TV, computer and smartphone purchased from second-hand stalls. During the exhibition, I plan to conduct live drawing demonstrations to allow more viewers’ insight into my creative process and everyday life. The exhibition aims to raise awareness of modern people’s over-reliance on electronic products and new media – about our relinquishing control of information dissemination to them, and our mindless reliance on them for escapist entertainment.
J: Any insight you gained from the process?
L: To create this series, I watched various TV channels and online media on a regular and daily basis. I observed that screen transitions are rapid in entertainment shows to attract viewers’ attention. News programmes, on the contrary, are often static. I also noticed that there are more informational and finance programmes on TV during weekdays, while weekend programmes tend to be more family-oriented. TV programmes often embody social phenomena. For example, ViuTV shows always feature Mirror, while TVB Jade channel airs cartoons in the afternoon.
J: How do you think people’s thoughts are influenced by the mass media?
L: In the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s criticism of the mass media, he studied how, in the future, TV and billboard will influence our thoughts, and technology will control human. My view is that when people are repeatedly shown the same thing, naturally and eventually they will assimilate the information as if brainwashed.
I created a series titled Paper on the wall by repeatedly uploading and downloading the same image on Instagram. The resolution of the image continued to degrade throughout the process, as a metaphor for how the large volume of information generated by social media actually causes our memory of them to fade and the impression to blur, until we completely lose focus of the original picture.
Ink on Chinese paper | 2021
J: Any plans in the future?
L: Although I feel that the current situation is not making artistic creation easy, I foresee that the focus of my interest would still revolve around Hong Kong, plus I would wish to explore expanding my practice into other materials and mediums.