Winner of the 2020 BMW Art Journey Award, Leelee Chan is a sculptor and installation artist. She is highly regarded for her adventurous use of recycled objects, transforming abandoned detritus into objects worthy of care and love by blending them with industrial or natural components, and designing them to be meticulously installed in galleries.Read More
Born in Hong Kong, Chan's parents ran an antique shop that whetted her appetite for looking closely at a variety of crafted objects. Her tertiary education however was at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, where with her MFA (2009), she concentrated on painting. An earlier BFA (2006) was at the School of Art Institute in Chicago.
In New York, her studio practice alternated between painting and sculpture but when she returned to Hong Kong in 2016, sculpture, with a physical presence in real space, became a priority at the suggestion of one of her teachers.
While exploring the location of her Hong Kong studio, which was positioned in a densely inhabited industrial area, Leelee Chan discovered dumpsters full of detritus that intrigued her—especially as many of the manufacturing plants had relocated to mainland China. This waste she sifted through, selected, and hoarded, to be recombined later after much scrutiny and intermittent contemplation. Examples, such as these with plastic pallets, include Hazy Blue Silhouette (2021), Nocturnal Encounter (2021), and Circuit (Jasper Green) (2021).
Despite her early interest in painting, Chan's reputation is based on her conceptually complex sculptures, such as those based on normally abandoned by-products like core samples from sedimentary geological drilling, including Barnacles (2019). These demonstrate her interest in the compression of time. In Present Relics (2020), Chan carefully arranges a group of ceramic shards that appear to be Ming dynasty fragments, or else poetically mixes them with other dramatically different materials, from nature or from industry, as in The Grip (2020) and Performer #1 (2021).
Chan's ongoing projects incorporate researching the traditional skills of marble and quartz crystal carving and copper and silver foundries. After winning the 2020 BMW Art Journey Award, Chan embarked on a project that involved visiting world-renowned mines and quarries in Mexico, Spain, and Italy to study their artisan technologies, social relationships, and histories.
Leelee Chan has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.
Group exhibitions include Solid Ground, Para Site, Hong Kong (2021); Poetic Heritage, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2021); Organs Underground, M Woods Museum x Plate Space, Beijing (2020); KölnSkulptur #10, Skulpturenpark Köln, Cologne (2020); How Do We Begin: X Museum Triennial 1st Edition, X Museum, Beijing (2020); Up close – Hollywood Road, Gallery 149 and Bonnie Lai Antiquities, Hong Kong (2020); Holy Mosses, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong (2019); Hysteresis, Downs & Ross, New York (2019); and Scaffolds of Meaning, Mine Project, Hong Kong (2019).
Her work is held in the collections of Skulpturenpark Köln, Cologne; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; and JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, Hong Kong.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2022
At Para Site in Hong Kong, the group exhibition Liquid Ground explores land reclamation and its impact on communities.
The French artist will spend time in his ancestral home of Martinique, a place he says 'haunts my imagination and fuels it'.
Leelee Chan received the opportunity in 2020, the worst year to travel in living memory. She had a blast.
Pandemic permitting, the Hong Kong artist will visit destinations in Europe, Japan and the Americas to explore the past, present and future of materials.