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).Read More
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.