You have a degree in fashion design, what made you leave the industry and become an artist?
Ever since I'm a child I like making things. It is intoxicating to see things become reality that have only existed in your imagination before. But does it still make sense to make things in a society that has more than enough? When still working in the fashion industry, I was visiting one of the production factories in Guan Dong for quality control. In one of the rooms young adults were assembling handbags. The air was filled with the fumes of glue, there was no proper air ventilation, the lighting was poor, all of the facts we know so well from the media. But what shocked me were not these inadequate working conditions. What shocked me were seeing these young adults being self-confident and independent, with fashionable clothes, latest hair styles and smart phones. This instant revealed to me that it is ourselves who are creating our very own cravings. These young people were literally making the very handbags they were saving money for. It became clear to me then that I didn't want to fuel that cycle of mindless consumerism anymore. I had the choice to step out of that cycle and I took it.
What made you study fashion-design in the first place then?My mother is a textile designer and I was surrounded by materials and the humming of a sewing machine ever since I can remember. All of my family are either artists or craftsmen. As a child the paintings on the walls were my great grandfather's, the storybooks were illustrated by my grandmother, the chairs designed by my uncle and the clothes I was wearing were made by my mom. So I guess applying at an art academy was the only thing to do. If I had asked to study law or anything slightly more conservative they probably would have thrown a fit. Basically I was not making up my mind but just following the family tradition. Studying a design major was limiting for me though. My creations always turned out either like paintings or like sculptures.
Why did you choose waste as a material to work with?
I like finding things. Things man-made as well as natural. It is more about this idea of finding, about being open and receptive to my environment, to the things that surround me. Waste is just a part of this idea. Everything that I find talks to me, it is almost like the objects are finding me and not the other way around.
Wording it differently: What story does the waste in your art tell?
It is a direct reflection of our materialistic society. Every single piece tells a story of how we live, what we crave for, what our habits are, what we value and what we waste. 'Show me your waste and I tell you who you are' is a sentence that came to my mind once when working on an installation. I'm not really changing anything. I'm not colouring or altering the found objects in any way. The only thing I do is to rearrange the waste in a system of colour gradation, size and material coordination. And by doing so I change our perception of the very same objects into something visually beautiful. But of course it's still the same rubbish. With the big difference that now the viewer is pulled into the story and has to reflect on it.
How do you think living in HK has affected your art?
I think Hong Kong hasn't actually influenced my art that much. Generalizing things Hong Kong is a city that's shiny and new, fast-paced and money-driven. On the contrary I'm interested in old things, used things, in things that tell a story, that tell time. I can see so much beauty and value in the mundane. My works are time-consuming to make and made from 'worthless' materials like waste or leaves that wither within a short period of time. It's quite funny, because these values couldn't be less Hong Kong. But that doesn't mean I don't like it here! In a way I'm grateful that Hong Kong doesn't give me a lot of input. That way I need to focus on myself and look inside for inspiration.
There are a lot of artists who I feel kinship with. Tim Knowles, Jacob Dahlgren, Susumu Koshimizu are all artists I admire for their critical, sensitive yet humorous approach to reality. They are creating great works on the outside as well as on the inside. Along with their strong concepts these artists succeed in making works that are just as stunning visually. Then there are street artists like Swoon. I love the ephemerality and vulnerability of her work. Another great street artist is Banksy of course. It's the direct and spontaneous way street art responds to people's everyday life and the freedom that comes from trespassing boundaries of perception that I relate to.
That's a difficult question! I want to touch others through my work. It can be puzzling, pleasing, disturbing or all of it at the same time. I accept anything but indifference. I want to get deeper than the surface. Personally my goal is to become more true, more honest with myself. To become more myself if that makes sense. And to express that authenticity in my work. I'm constantly trying to find a visual language for my inner reality, turning my inner world outward. It is a very personal journey. No one knows the next step except myself. No one can tell me what to do next. It feels like a slippery path sometimes, because you never know if you will be understood. You never know if it is enough.
What project are you currently working on?
At the moment I'm working on an installation called '垃圾排檔 / lost'n'found' for Ocean Art Walk 2014. I came up with a hawker stall filled entirely with waste washed ashore on Hong Kong beaches. From afar this stall will look like a rainbow. Coming closer people will notice that the objects 'for sale' are actually all waste: bottle caps, broken toys, twigs, old shoes, leaves, plastic bottles etc. Each of the found objects will be labeled with a price tag, which does not state a number in dollars but a mental state, e.g. 'awareness' or 'responsibility'. Visitors will be able to 'buy' single pieces in exchange for their personal interpretation of the word. Ocean Art Walk will open on 12th of April in Stanley. I'll post more details on my blog closer to the date.
All photos by teschka.com
All photos by teschka.com