Choichun Leung talks to SML about her mixed media paintings during the 13th Annual Art Under the Bridge Festival organized by the Dumbo Arts Center in New York City in 2009.
Choichun's work appears to have very severe typographic influences, and I originally thought that she was trained as a graphic designer. So I was surprised to learn during the interview that she was trained in metal-smithing. It's great to meet a Chinese artist living in New York!
Choichun Leung left Wales when she was seventeen to pursue a degree in metal-smithing at Loughborough college of Art and Design in the UK, afterwhich she studied Buddhist iconography in both Beijing and the Yangkung caves in China's Shanxi province. In 1988 she moved to London where she studied under the Ray Man Chinese Orchestra as a percussionist and a student of the Gu-qin - a traditional Chinese bass zither. Leung worked in Hong Kong as a background artist for animation film before returning to London in 1992 where she received a grant and Gold Award from the Prince of Wales' Youth Business Trust for the most innovative new business of the year: a line of symbolic art products using the traditional technique of Chinese paper cutting.
With music and the arts always hand in hand, Leung came to New York in 1994 where she began painting seriously, worked as an assistant to artist Peter Max, and studied music composition. From that point forward, Choichun's artwork has been inextricably entwined with her interest in music and have continued to influence each other.
As the single mother of a young daughter, Choichun moved to Germany in 2002 to write music, perform and collaborate on an audio/visual project based in Koln. Upon the invitation of a gallery in 2006 she returned to New York. Most recently Choichun has been featured in two solo exhibitions at JLA Baxter House in Manhattan and will take part in a group showing in Hamburg in November 2008. Choichun currently lives in Brooklyn, NYC .
Artist Statement Our lives are as long as we remember. Our memories are imbedded in us like DNA. But what of lives that through trauma or age have lost memory? What of the interplay of conscious thought and the sub-conscious? Which one really drives the show? My paintings are like rorschach tests in reverse, a psychological diary of that moment in time, an investigation of the relationship between past and present, reality and illusion and in effect a blue print to the past self. Through the symbolisms revealed, and the stories or objects we project into the abstract, we expose another layer of ourselves and in turn provide clues to what may not be fully aware. My paintings are simple traces of that activity, void of any meaning, but imbedded with the years of experience that shapes us, yet also holds us hostage.
Choichun never paints from sketches but instead allows the process and medium dictate. Each application is an expressive gesture evoking the emotion and inner psychology of that moment, a conflicted excavation of what may be hidden or imagined. The script like lines emerge as a non-cognitive language or what she has come to identify as 'glyphs' - a pictographic personal alphabet; where 'glyphs' document the days, weeks and months spent on a piece. The one actual reference that Choichun can identify in her work after the fact springs from her background in music and her fascination with its chaotic notes and interpretive patterns. These can be seen in the work's fine, rhythmic and frenetic lines as well as in the heavier, poured-on, black & white 'mono-glyphs' which overtake the paintings like visual representations of a sound. Choichun paints on both wood panels and canvas, using liquid acrylic, aerosol, oil bars and thread . With sticks, brushes, trowels and vessels: applying the paint and then scratching through the layers to reveal what is underneath, scripting with ‘glyphs’ throughout, painting over, sanding down and repeating this process until an image is revealed or another is hidden.
CC-BY-SA 2009 See-ming Lee 李思明 SML