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By Leanne Mirandilla | November 25th, 2019

Born in Australia and raised in Hong Kong, artist May Yeung went to boarding school in the United States and graduated from the University of Chicago with double majors in visual arts and political science. It was during her 10 years in the US that she developed her identity as a sculptor. Since then, she’s created a series of pop art installations that were shown throughout Chicago and Maryland and has showcased her work at the residence of the Dutch consul general and at Le French May in Hong Kong.

Her latest project, an exhibition and performance created with a group of artists titled The Sea of Hope, combines her love of art with raising awareness of the plight of Chinese white dolphins.

Cream of the crop

As the only female in my sculpture class, I was determined to show that I am more than capable than fellow male artists. I excelled in my wood carving and metal welding classes. Previously better known for my large-scale public art installations, I now engage neighborhoods through community art.

Audiences are entranced by how my work challenges traditions of fine art by including imagery from mass culture. Rather than allowing the work of art to lose its charge in an art gallery, my art pieces engage with the outside world. They take into account the direct effect of day to day lives. The sharp colors and simple imagery give the audience an opportunity to re-access and regroup their relationship with people and things around them.

Art and the younger generations

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up,” Pablo Picasso once said. Although Hong Kong is the third largest commercial art hub in the world, most Hong Kong parents doubt the economic value of an arts education. Believing that the goal of education is to create opportunities for a child to invent and discover, I am determined to re-introduce art to Hong Kong people by making it a universal language.

The smiles of children motivated me to pour my heart into my work every day. From United Nations Environment’s #BeatPlasticPollution family day to Tsuen Wan Arts Festival’s The Sea of Hope exhibition and performance, I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to help children build intimacy and mutual understanding through community art.

The Sea of Hope
The Sea of Hope (2019) by May Yeung (Photo: Yung Chan)

The Sea of Hope

Ever since I was a child, I was mesmerized by the magic of the sea. Mother Nature could be serene and embrace you at one moment, yet it could explode with its stormy temper and attack you at another instance.

In particular, the love amongst Chinese white dolphins, the mascot of Hong Kong SAR, touches my heartstrings — they always protect and trust each other. They seem to whisper to us that love never fails and that we should care about the environment where we all have a mutual interest.

Despite the implementation of the Protection of Endangered Species of Animal and Plant Ordinance (Cap 586) and Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170), only 32 Chinese white dolphins are left in the coastal areas of the Pearl River Estuary, including the waters of Hong Kong and Macau. Given the endangered status of Chinese white dolphins, it is crucial for us to raise awareness of them through community art.

Touched by the strong bonds between mother and baby Chinese white dolphins, I led a team of artists from France, the United States and Greater China to use recycled materials, including glass bottles, plastic hangers, wooden wine boxes, car tires and aluminium, to create the installation The Sea of Hope. Companies that support corporate social responsibility — JC Group, Mainetti Retail Solutions Worldwide and Aqua House Hong Kong — provided materials.

Looking to the future

Be faithful in small steps because it is in them that your strength lies. By educating the next generation on marine conservation at a young age, we bring in new strength and energy to build a better community. Let us support the Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022 presented by the Environment Bureau of the HKSAR Government; let each wave of life wash us a little closer to the shore of harmony between Mother Nature and humans.

From our Point of View series.