【Intimate Portrait】No fish out of water / Joey Leung

(2016 January) Located at JCCAC Unit 7-23, “Quabitat Ceramics & Photography Studio” is the artist studio of Joey Leung. Surrounded on three sides by glass walls, it has a bizarre aquarium-like feel to it. Ceramic fish peer out from the dark - some coy, some sneering, some menacing. There is sadness in their humour, and madness in their hope.


Fish out of the box

Fish is traditionally symbolic of fortune and prosperity in Chinese culture. Joey has adopted the fish as the recurrent motif in his works, which consist mainly of hand-painted fish plates and ceramic sculptures. “In the old days, civil wars were rife and life was much harder. When times were so tough that people could not even have fish on their plates as offering to the Gods, they offered a painted fish on the plate instead. One might criticise it as self-deceit, but no one could deny their creativity and optimism.” Joey also invented the word “魚彝” by combining the Chinese characters for “fish” and his name “Yi”, to symbolise the spirit of the fish plate and reflect his good wishes and encouragement to the Hong Kong people.


Joey’s painted fish on ceramic plates literally break through the surface and leap out into the 3-dimensional world. One by one and then eventually the whole school of them escape, filling the studio and beyond. “It is my wish that the people of Hong Kong can break free from the confines of their flat world and reach far” Joey adds.


Culture is the roots and the wings

Joey studied industrial/commercial design before switching to photography. “I went to school during daytime and at night worked as a photographer in a disco.” His first professional full-time job, spanning 5 years, was as a photo-journalist for a major newspaper. Realising that he needed to enrich his artistic ability in order to express his profound ideas, he furthered his studies and obtained a bachelor degree in fine art, majoring in ceramic. That was when he launched his career as an artist in earnest, with ceramic as his main, but not only, medium of artistic expression. His fish motif works are also realised in paper mache, Chinese ink and calligraphy.


Mainstream art appears to be dominated by western influence. “As a Chinese artist, I think that there is no point in trying to mimic western art.” He believes that with its long and rich history, Chinese culture has much to offer in the context of contemporary art. His works reference local and Chinese culture through western and contemporary artistic medium. “It is a pity that Chinese cultural development suffered a blow due to political unrest a few decades ago. But perhaps that void was a blessing in disguise, opening up the creative possibility of a new dimension for Chinese cultural and artistic development.”


Life is created, not destined

Joey is as determined as the fish in his works, striving to say no to the ordinary and to overcome obstacles ahead. He pointed out that many Hong Kong people are strange creatures willing to slave away like a dog for 358 days just for the pleasure of a week-long foreign holiday once a year. “It’s totally absurd and should instead work the other way round, don’t you agree? Life is too precious to be miserable most of the time. We need to find things to enrich our everyday life, and one of the best ways to achieve that is through arts.”


Artistic creativity is Joey’s key to happiness. He is optimistic about recent developments in the Hong Kong art scene. Not only are there increased exposures for local artists, galleries specialised in promoting local ceramists have also sprung up. One of them will be presenting a solo exhibition of Joey’s new collection of fish sculptures and installations this month. We are sure that it will go swimmingly well.


Please click here to download《JCCAC PROGRAMMES》(2016 Jan issue)


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