Gory yet Cute – Mimi Leung presents ‘Australian Roadkill’
Born in Hong Kong and raised in England, artist Mimi Leung studied at Central St Martins and the Royal College of Art in London. She later relocated to Australia where she spent several years working with local aboriginal communities in Alice Springs.
Her latest solo show Australian Roadkill draws inspiration from the unfortunate fate of kangaroos, wombats, rabbits and birds on our rural roads, and is currently on display at Lamington Drive Gallery in Melbourne, Australia until August 2nd.
Describing her experience of coming across these specimens as ‘gory yet cute’, Mimi began photographing them – a macabre archive that has resulted in a series of works revolving around speed, chance, progress and acceptance.
We caught up with her find out more her playfully crude artworks.
I love creating and experience a delirious joy when I’m making things.
Can you tell us about the artwork you’ve made for ‘Australian Roadkill’ and what inspired / caught your attention about the idea of painting this subject matter?
I was surprised and shocked by the number, variety and size of roadkill on rural Australian roads and highways. You rarely see big roadkill in the UK, so to see kangaroos and wombats made me look twice. Also really beautiful birds and little bunnies. Why don’t we care more about that? It seemed so callous and cruel, to leave behind us these ruined bodies in the wake of our commuting. It’s like we’re so desperate to get somewhere that we don’t care what the costs are. According to some statistics, in 2012 alone close to 16, 000 wallabies were killed on Australian roads, as well as over 108, 000 possums. I find this a bit disturbing, but yet I drive on.
When was the last time you exhibited in Australia?
I showed some paintings at Alice Springs in 2011, then showed that work in Frankston, VIC. I’ve been in a few group shows in Melbourne. The most recent group exhibition was at Bright Space Gallery in St. Kilda. This is my first solo show in Melbourne.
How would you describe your work?
For this show I worked in a way that I felt reflected how roadkill is created – with speed, chance and a persistent need to move forwards. I stuffed my paints into a long cardboard box and pulled different colours as I painted. Whichever colour came out, that was the colour I had to use. I painted as fast as I could, resisting the urge to go back and change things.
If it looked bad, I had to just accept it and move on. Much like hitting an animal on the road I’d imagine.
Where are you from originally? Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Hampshire, England. My childhood was boring. I read a lot. I rode my bike and drew stuff.
Do you enjoy travelling? How does your lifestyle influence your work?
Travelling is a good excuse to zone out and daydream, you don’t really have to be present until you arrive and people don’t expect you to be responsible for certain things. At the moment I’m focusing on staying in one place, which I’ve not done for a while. I think being exposed to different things affects my work but that doesn’t have to come from my own lifestyle. I have a very boring lifestyle. I hardly ever do anything exciting. I hope that doesn’t influence my work very much.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from? What drives you as an artist / creative?
Like how I got the idea for Australian Roadkill: from the things around me, what I see, hear, do; who I meet; things I watch/read etc.
I struggle with why I make things. I guess, I want to have a go at things and see what happens, if it’ll work like how I imagined or not.
When you’re not working, whats your favourite way to spend the day? Where do you like to hang out in Sydney or farther afield? Where do you go to escape and get some thinking time?
I live in a small country town which has a post office run by an old lady, called Dawn. I like going to see her and having a polite chat when I pick up my parcels. She is funny. There’s also an old pub, which is very country. They have pot and parma nights on Wednesdays, a meat raffle on Fridays, a beer bingo machine. People used to look at me funny when I went in there because I’m Chinese. So… I’m mostly looking for escapes from thinking rather than escaping to think. Hanging out with my dog, reading, camping and, recently, going to the local wood turners club are good escapes.
Briefly describe your working process, how do you record ideas and create paintings – what materials do you like to use?
I don’t actually sketch very often, I’ve never been very good at doing regular observational sketches. I don’t know if I’m supposed to admit that. I scribble a lot and I write a lot, mostly illegible scrawling in my notebook. I photograph things, though that usually means I don’t really look – like when I photographed the roadkill for this show. It made it feel safer to look because it put some distance between myself and the decaying bodies, but I spent less time looking at the actual thing.
As an artist, do you find it challenging to find the balance between personal work, client projects and having a life? How do you manage it?
I’m getting better at figuring out what’s going on there.
Can you tell us anything about the projects you’re currently working on?
I have so many things that’ll probably never get finished and I don’t want to get hung up on that. I’m excited about continuing to explore the themes, ideas and techniques that doing the Australian Roadkill work has got me into though, so I’m probably very likely to just carry on painting instead of going to back to finish anything.
Where do you see your work taking you in the next decade? What kind of projects, collaborations, experiences do you hope to cultivate for yourself?
I can’t even see past what I might do next year… I’d love to be painting all the time. I’d love to build a boat. I’d love to be having great a time doing whatever happens to be done. I want to be doing things that help me to continue breaking down my own preconceptions, prejudices and limitations.
Australian Roadkills continues Friday July 11 – Saturday August 2.