Life in Hong Kong is very fast-paced, but for Professor Mee-ping Leung, there is always time to explore different facets of our lives and create art that can motivate and inspire.
The Professor and Director of the Centre for Research & Development in Visual Arts in HKBU’s Academy of Visual Arts uses her passion for art to transform mundane objects into thought-provoking works. In her hands, real hair from people of more than a hundred different ethnicities was gathered for years, braided together and used to make over 10,000 children’s shoes, which were then placed pointing in the same direction. The artwork, which is titled Memorize the Future, is now part of the collection at Hong Kong’s M+ museum, and it directs the viewers’ gaze towards the same passage that every person must go through in life. In another installation piece, Out of Place, she documented the wanderings of drifters in different Asian cities to explore our understanding of the city, memories and identity.
Professor Leung’s ability to find inspiration in ordinary things and places is strongly connected to her appreciation of the beauty in everyday life and objects, and she also has the audacity to investigate new ideas. “Artists need to be adventurous, passionate about their work, and willing to take risks. There were times when I wasn’t sure how certain pieces of work would turn out, but my past experiences and curiosity drove me to just go for it,” she says. “Even if the outcome isn’t very successful, it will open up a new territory for you.”
Her adventurous spirit and courage to break the mould have been good companions to Professor Leung on her journey in the visual arts. Having developed an interest in drawing and painting as a child, she later moved to France by herself to chase her dream of studying art there. She went on to attend the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she earned a degree in Fine Arts. She then received a master’s and a doctoral degree from the California Institute of the Arts in the US and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, respectively.
An astute and curious observer, Professor Leung has experimented with different art forms and creative practices, including installations, mix-media works, public art and community art. A recurring element in her artworks is the close connection between art and real life. This can be seen in her innovative community art installation, A Moving Hill, where discarded stuffed animal toys, carrying the old memories of their previous owners, were given a new lease of life as part of an exhibition in the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Home, a public art project displayed at the concourse of the To Kwa Wan MTR station, engaged with the shifting community in To Kwa Wan, and 102 residents generously shared personal items to illustrate their stories of “home”.
As a teacher, Professor Leung hopes to inspire HKBU students with her creative insights. To her, everything contains unique and multifaceted elements, and she thinks that an artist’s role is to observe, appreciate life and explore brand new ideas. She says, “I believe creativity comes from life, and life can spark creativity.”