Danny Chin-fai Lee
Hong Kong Museum of Art
Reflection is both an expression and impression. It embodies the outlook of an object as well as the feeling which it provokes. In most two-dimensional arts, the artist uses forms and colours to create a dialogue with the audience. In sculpture, the addition of depth and volume enhances textural quality and a sense of space.
Danny Lee Chin-fai's stainless steel collection is best described as a total reflection. On one hand, they reflect the artist's conceptual focus on karma and attention to everyday object. Inspired by traditional Chinese landscape, Lee's waterfalls and rain drops bring forth a sense of fluidity that resemble calligraphic brushwork, particularly that of cursive script. The other dimension of Lee's work is his loyalty to materials. Constructed with precision and highly polished, they are mirrors that generate images of the surrounding as well as reflections of their beholders. Twisted and warped due to the curvature of the surface, we see ourselves living precariously within a shiny shell only to realise the opposite side of reality. Images within the reflection are truthful but not identical. They show the world in reverse and complete the cycle of cause and effect. It is this double-image that perfectly put Lee's sculpture within the realm of Daoism. While Daoist painter uses positive and negative, painted and empty spaces to portray the duality of the world, Lee takes advantage of his materials intrinsic quality and, combines with form and treatment, creates a tangible and thoroughly contemporary definition of one of the oldest canons in Chinese art.
One of the most celebrated sculptors in Hong Kong, Danny Lee, is set to compliment this year’s Young Fashion Designers Contest winners with his meticulously-crafted trophies, containing not just his words of encouragement to the young and restless, but also his creative philosophy.
One look around Danny Lee’s studio in Fo Tan leaves one astounded. The fluidly-shaped metallic sculptures embrace the ceiling, walls and the floor. These are his recent pieces inspired by landscape. Yes, landscape. Those metallic-cold textures and detail less shapes with not the faintest hint of nature, are – as the artist put it – city landscape. “Observing the city through its landscape, you will find streams of people are like flowing water, Skyscrapers Mountains.” He explained after a sip of the fresh tea, “Going to work every day is like going up and down a mountain. That is how I see the landscape.” His renowned landscape philosophy is not what makes his art famous, but what makes it inspiring; so too the trophy he designed for YDC this year. It is a messenger of creative thoughts. Sculptures represent an art form that defies logic and actual environment; its abstract and uncatchable qualities always leave audiences in awe. After exploring varied art forms, Lee remains dedicated to sculptures because a sculpture to him is just a way of expression, what matters is the message beneath. “To create something is to tidy up your daily thoughts and create a record through your work. A creation is not a groundless make-up; it is the result of condensing your thoughts and what you want to say. There has to be your voice before your work,” said Lee. “Every one has a different way of expressing himself. Some use body languages, some use sound, motions and words. My way of expressing is just more in 3D-shape.” Throughout the past two decades of his artistic career, Lee has never been far from his exploration of nature. His early works reflected intense natural landscape, and as time goes by, his aesthetics now focus on the closer environment. “We always go for something far and broad,” said Lee, “For instance when we look at the landscape, our sights are always on contour and rivers far, far away. At a certain point of time, I started to narrow down my sight to things as little as a water droplet. I went from macro view of nature to micro view of humanity.” Evolution of his mindset in recent years has settled on the thoughts on water, which explains why water is often seen in his recent pieces. “Water has no shape, it changes alongside surrounding environment,” he explained, “A drop of water is no different from a pan of water. Apparently it is submissive to the landscape, yet in fact it changes what surrounds it.” On his book cover is a round, gigantic metallic ‘droplet’ with smooth surface that reflects everything surrounding, it is a perfect example of his philosophy. ‘It is like a convex mirror, on which you see all the details, trivial and obvious. The contents it holds are way beyond the amount you notice.” Lee explained, “However big ambitions we have start with the tiniest foundation. When you see only big, you ignore what’s obvious before you. You can’t think big without knowing the small.” Now I see why he entitled his book Sculpture of Reflections. “The micro view I want from my pieces is myself. You can’t see people without reflecting on yourself. That is very important.” This very inspiring ‘water philosophy’ is well spoken by the trophy designed for this year’s YDC. Lee showed me the prototype in shape of a droplet – which is no replica of his signature style, but a message of encouragement to all young fashion aspirers. Facing a world where trends come and go, never fall victims of trends. Find your own style and pursue it; then you will have the true spirit of design. “All I want to say is when this droplet comes into your hand, it’s all up to you to change it. To create something is not to follow; it is to make it whatever you want it to be.”
The Art Square at Salisbury Garden, a new art space situated in the forecourt of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, was officially opened on 22 Feb 2014. Three large scale outdoor sculptures are now on display at its first exposition titled "Heaven, Earth and Man - A Hong Kong Art Exhibition".