Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I am from Hong Kong and I am currently based in Rome for my 9 month residency at the British School at Rome. I graduated from The Slade School of Fine Art for my BA and Royal College of Art for my MA. My work constantly deals with ordeals that I come across in my travel experiences such as being stranded in a jungle in D.R Congo and being detained in a Russian missile base in Saratov. It is the unknowns of certain places drive me to dive deeper to search for more knowledge. The starting point of my practise is always from my curiosity towards things that I am not familiar with. My art making is always probing questions rather than looking for answers. The people, places, objects I came across become my personal fictional symbolisms and I want to create a culture that does not exist in any particular place but only within the space that I create. Thus, you can find a lot of cultural influences from all over the world that I have seen in the past but I blend them in together as my metaphor and I want them to make sense to myself. Each narration of my experience becomes a less important element of my work but most importantly, it is about recording my fragmented memory that I am trying to hold on to from the past and resemble them back together. The lost of time and the past is something I always find particularly precious and my work becomes a stage and space allowing the event to be preserved.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I have always been into stage design and art since I was in nursery. I remembered I used to join drama classes when I was really young and helping teachers to make props and paint sets. Before going to an art school, I actually wanted to do theatre and enrol in RADA but I thought Fine Art will be more diverse in terms of the mediums I could use. I started to focus more in art during my A Levels and my art teacher was really encouraging in my art and it was the first time I was introduced into contemporary art. I still remember the first contemporary artist we learnt in class was Jenny Savile and I was so drawn into how powerful contemporary art could be as it is so close to us. The artists are constantly responding to the time that we are living in. There is an intimacy of time that attracts me. And the sense of liberation in art that you cannot find in any fields keeps me carrying on and makes me wanting to do it for my whole life.
What do you like most about working where you do?
At the moment, I am living in Rome for my residency and it is my first time being here. I am so easy to get drawn into the cityscape and my work changes by how the city shapes my approach. For instance, I was living in Jerusalem for four months in 2014 and my work becomes quite skeptical towards the idea of holiness. It is unintentional all the time. The cities always become a playground to me or to a lot of spectators that visit the place. Most of the time, I avoid going back to the same place again in a very short period of time because I am constantly searching for a new place and finding how the new visited place could relate to the previous place. But for now, I am still so overwhelmed by the history of Rome and how the architecture in different time periods somehow correspond to one another. It is the city and the architecture always telling me that the history repeats itself in different methodologies.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I am currently looking at how hyperreality shapes the ways we look at and behave in the city. Particularly the ruins that I am living in everyday. They add odd to me because I do not know how to approach them in a contemporary practise. They were built so long time ago but they have become a stage that visitors could speculate. My practise ranges from performance to paintings and prints. The space in my work turns into an universe that I could indulge myself into different avatars. I could re-stage and pre-stage what the scenarios could be.
What is your process like?
I love working on old drawings and overlapping multiple drawings together. It is always a beginning before I start working on a piece of work no matter whether its on canvas or the final product. Because you don’t have as much as pressure as working on some expensive canvas or paper. I could just draw endlessly once I hold a pencil. My working pace is quite varied and also depends on the size of the work I am working. Sometimes, I could spend a month working on one thing and suddenly I would want to work on a really quick performance which only takes few days to prepare. I like to work on a couple of work at one time, especially during making some really labor intensive work, I tend to do drawings on the side to prepare for my next one. There is always a durational conversation from one to another in my work. I am interested in how we refer many things in daily life but somehow the references become timeless. I construct a space that could validate even time passes.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Because of my residency now in Rome, I am surrounded by a lot of historical influences. First, from the cityscape itself, there is always a hyperreality that is living within us. No matter where you go, the city itself becomes a playground where we should behave in a certain way. I am particularly into the geometric patterns in Pompeii mosaics. I am amazed the labyrinth patterns influence the decoration and the idea of the interior of labyrinth does not take you anywhere. A lot of the mosaic now we see in the museum is like us looking from the exterior into the interior of a space. And I have been reading Michel Foucault’s the Order of Things. And I am particularly intrigued by the idea that we loses the chain of anatomy nowadays in terms of developing more automated devices. We are living in the period that is challenging our existence as human beings. We have to behave more like a human and appreciate the nature more than any centuries.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
Burying myself with 80 kgs of sand in Oxford Street, London
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I travel to many places around the world a lot. I mostly use my savings to travel during the summer after a whole year working really hard in my art. Then I take many many photographs, write many many journals and do drawings. They are always the resources that I could develop over the next year or even years later. It is essential for me to get out of my studio for an intense period of time to see things that I am not familiar with. I am planning to go Papua New Guinea this summer to research about the architectures and woodcrafts for the crocodile god along Sepik river.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
A few of my close friends from the Slade always remind me of being sincere with my own interests. Sometimes, when you hear many comments about how to improve your own work. But by the end of the day, you are the only one knowing yourself the best. When I am unsure about what i am doing, the best way is to embrace your doubts but also ask yourself what you wanted in the first place. And my sister is also my great mentor. Even though she is not in the art industry, she always reminds me that how much freedom I have being as an artist and just go for it!
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Be a cockroach. Being an artist is tough but no matter what kinds of challenges we are facing, we always could get around because we could use our creativity to solve the problems. We will still survive like a cockroach.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
Definitely. Because I used to make work in a big printmaking workshop, everyone could see what you are doing. And you could also see how the others approach their works differently. Now, I have my own studio space but I always enjoy artists coming for a studio visit. A friend who comments about your work unintentional during a conservation in your studio. It sometimes makes me approach my work in more different ways. Then, it expands the possibilities of making a piece of work in many varied ways.
What is your studio like?
Lino offcuts everywhere on the floor because I am working on a 250x180cm linocut.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I normally starts working at 11am. It depends on my mood of the day. Sometimes I prefer Bossa Nova to start my day. Sometimes when I am feeling a bit tired, I need Earth Wind and Fire to wake myself up. I work everyday. Normally from 11am till 2am the next day, lunch and dinner in between.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I think MFA is really the stage that polish a lot of my ideas from BA in a more technical sense. I started painting at the Slade and applied to RCA painting. But somehow the school transferred me to Printmaking in regard of my limited knowledge in printmaking. But I got so much practical advices from my MFA. However, a lot of art educations now are really expensive. I think the tuition fee is the big issue before going to do an MFA. I think no matter anyone has decided to do an MFA or not. The most important thing is to keep learning and be open-minded. It could be in anywhere, even out of intuitions. Never have an attitude that you think you know everything as no one does.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The hierarchy in art industry. I think artists should not be controlled by gallerists and curators. A lot of the galleries nowadays only focus on making money and artists become their puppets or money making devices. When one style works, the gallerists would ask the artists to do the same kind of work over and over again. Many artists lose their own freedom in art making towards the end. There should be more respects on the artists in our society. And curators should not think they have more power over the artists. It should be the artists choosing the curators and gallerists rather the other way round.
How would you define “success” in art?
Being able to embrace failures through making.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
So far, it is definitely my residency at the British School at Rome. It is a place where you can feel everyone around you is thirsty for knowledge.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
Yes. Still in process. I would like to do an exhibition with two artists I met at the British School at Rome, Holly Hendry and Anna Brass in the upcoming future. But I am still looking for a space to exhibit at the moment.
What are you working on right now?
A linocut about the myth of Vesuvius for my last June Mostra at the British School at Rome