Former art director turned Hong Kong-based visual artist and content creator Afa Lee has made a seamless career transition. In the past few years, she has gained solid recognition for her unique cartoon depictions of human-like figures and was the recipient of the DFA Hong Kong Design Talent Award. Her success continues to gain momentum through her active role in various charity auctions headed by Phillips and Christie’s.
Afa spoke candidly to us about the reality of sustaining an independent career, her perspective on art and her upcoming projects, including a hybrid installation featuring a clash of murals, sculptures and paintings at Hong Kong’s BELOWGROUND.
What’s it like being an independent creator in Hong Kong?
It can be challenging because the trajectory is often unstable, but being affiliated with a gallery has helped a lot. As a JPS Gallery artist, it has given me access to regular exhibition space. They have their own VIPs already and help artists find prospective collectors, which alleviates the client servicing side that comes along with being an independent artist. I am much more comfortable in this format of art-making if given a choice.
How would you describe your aesthetics in a few words?
Sentimental, sensual, unsettled and solitary.
How do you balance commerce and creativity?
What’s most important is your way of thinking – you need to set your objectives straight. There must be some degree of compromise in your work to make a living, but you must also select a bottom line of how much commercial work you can do. For every commercial assignment, I might then take a break to work on a passion project that truly speaks to me. With this in mind, I become less conflicted on the projects I take on board.
It’s a good feeling to be alone. It’s only when you’re not afraid of solitude that you can have conversations with yourself, whether it’s thinking, reflecting or setting intentions.
Many artists draw creative ideas from their dreams. How about you?
Some of my works are inspired by my own dreams, but most of the time, they’re from books I’m reading and a collision of personal thoughts. I’m an avid daydreamer, so ideas do often pop out abruptly.
Has there been any dream that’s left a strong impression?
Sure, the latest one was about my whole family going up the hill for vacation, but then they suddenly all left without noticing me. I felt scared and helpless, having been dumped and betrayed. The anxiety and intense feeling of abandonment forced me to wake up.
My gallery (JPS) has joined Art Central this year, which will happen in May, so I’m now working on that. My other group show “Time Travel” with the Bronx graffiti legend COPE2 and Chino Lam, curated by JPS Gallery with BELOWGROUND, is now on show and running until 16 May 2021. I’m also trying to take a quick break between projects to avoid stretching myself too thin. Keeping a balanced mental and physical health is of utmost importance to me, and it’s something I am learning to prioritise this year.