Timothy Hon Hung Lee is a 25 year old Virgo born in Sutton Coldfield, UK at the Good Hope Hospital. He is British with his family originating from Hong Kong. Timothy currently lives in Leeds and is chasing a lifelong ambition to become successful, a dream which I am almost positive he will reach in not that long of a time. I had a chat with him about his art, his goals and his up and coming group show at London Miles Gallery, titled Waking Aurora.
I have done all the usual UK qualifications, Foundation level and degree in fine art. Im still toying with the idea to do an MA.
How long have you been drawing?
Like many artists its always been a part of me although I stopped for 4 years whilst at Unniversity to try other mediums paint, digital, sculpture.
When we last spoke I was amazed to find out just how long you spend on any particular piece of art.. you said up to 2 weeks or around 50 hours. Where does this strong attention to detail and dedication come from?
The most I have spent on a piece was over a month of non stop 8-10 hours a day. Why I spend so much time on a piece I have no idea. Everybody sees things in their own way when, im drawing I see sections that need to be finished to a level so that the rest of the piece works. Im not purposefully looking to fill my work with tiny details it is just how I draw. And the dedication I suppose is from the fact that I love what I do and don’t see the time it takes as a burden; it helps to resolve certain thoughts and feelings.
Exactly how to do you start a piece? Do you have an idea and sketch it out, or do you just go for it?
The ideas come when I least expect it and with different levels of clarity, some pieces draw themselves and others take little more time to reveal their truths. Either way it’s a case of outlining the composition with pencil then drawing ink pens.
So how did you get in to working with Ink as your main medium?
I think this is from my time spent in digital work. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea that anything you do has no permanence. So Ink is a medium where to a degree you mark is definite there’s not much you can alter about them. I like what it stands for in a way, it is simple and direct.
The paper I work with can be extremely delicate and it takes a certain touch to be able to control your marks. In my eyes I always see areas where I think I have messed up but that’s natural to make mistakes; in drawing and in life. Im not concerned with mistakes I’m concerned with the bigger picture.
Growing up in the UK and being of Chinese descent has played a big part in my identity. I literally feel split half British half Chinese. I see the Asian Influence as a way to reclaim and maintain the Asian heritage within me. I can get by in everyday Cantonese and understand more than I can speak, but im illiterate in Chinese which I feel is quite shameful. It is something im going to address. I know about Eastern culture but it is learnt through English it is only through art I can transcend this dichotomy.
How do you know when you’re finished with a piece?
It is natural, people always think of my pieces as intricate but to me it’s a reduction. Until what I see as my truth on the paper I stop.
What is your most productive time to work?
Its always at night. Its sounds strange but I work best when I shut down.
Up to this point, can you tell us a bit about how your art career has been going. What shows have you been involved in? Where are you currently being exhibited?
I feel really lucky and humbled with the people I have met so far. I have had my work in cities and galleries I have never been to. The Kids are Alright tour (which is happening as we speak) is something im very excited about. The idea of the tour is to push each artist outside their comfort zones working in different mediums and sizes. The tour goes on to the end of the year im looking forward to see what I create for each venue. Before these shows came into fruition I was not so different to what I do now. Just trying to make a strong body of work.
I personally would love to see you get in to painting. Do you think you will be moving towards that in the future or are you standing by your ink illustrations for the moment?
For the time being I am focused in seeing how far I can push myself with ink and the possibilities of this medium. I will start painting again but I cant promise it will be any less time consuming. I think its important for an artist to not be a one trick pony.
Have you dipped in to painting in the past?
I used to paint in my teens a lot. They were never really any good but I feel now with an experience of visuals I can make that transition. I actually cant wait to paint again but its just finding the time; the right time.
I spoke to you before about getting prints made of your work, as I think your artwork would look fantastic in print form and also be very accessible to a much wider audience due to the price of course.. do you think that is on the list of things to do?
Definitely, of course only if there is a demand for my work. Art should be about sharing and inclusion not elitism.
How do you see the current “New Contemporary “ art world and how do you see yourself playing a roll with in this growing movement? (Hard question I know..but just would be good to hear your thoughts on this whole art culture and where you see it going, yourself included)
If you look at the Turner prize nominations and then the reactions of the public you can see there’s a gap. I have a problem with work that is catered for the art world. But it is so difficult to comment on an entity that is ever changing with so many variables.
I think and hope that art from cultures and countries that we are less familiar with will be much more of a presence in the art world. In terms of my work being part of this new contemporary movement, I really don’t know where my work sits. The only role I can play is my own.
What artists do you look up to? Influence you, and keep you going?
Theres so many… Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon, Rembrandt, Liu Zheng, Takato Yamamoto, Wong Kar Wai, David Lynch, Joel Peter Witkin, Haruki Murakami, Nick Cave, Bjork, Glassjaw. Theres many I have left out as I could probably go on for quite some time but when I think of any of these I think to myself; I’d like to be on one of these lists for someone some day.
My Uncle (Lee Man Sang) hes also an artist but I always give him a mention where I can. He’s very bohemian in his ways. It was my Uncles work I used to see when I was younger, I still remember his paintings vividly. I should have mentioned him above as his work probably moves me more than any other even though it’s a completely biased opinion. I get a lot of confidence from people who believe in me that’s really important, when its so hard to make it in this game.
Other than being an extremely dedicated and talented artist, what else do you do with your free time?
Music and films are a big thing in my life. I try to make as much noise just in house with the instruments we have got here (guitars and a set of drums). When not in solitude with my work, I make as much noise as possible. Im always spending my time on the net trying to discover new music I’d say im pretty open to all genres of music but still very particular with what I listen to. Im a pretty big film fan again its hard to say what films in particular. I always try to see things on the big screen the way they should be seen.
What trips or travels in the past have you been on that has really influenced you as a person? Travels, memories, places?
I once went to visit the Big Buddha in Hong Kong a few years ago. I think it was one of the powerful things I’d ever experienced. The Buddha is sat on a mountain overlooking Lan Tau island and I remember being silenced by it. The sheer size of the Buddha in relation to the mountains made me feel insignificant. But it was a truly humbling experience.
Where do you feel most at peace?
Theres a few here, The village where my grandparents live there are areas there that have been unspoiled for centuries. Also when im with my family and friends so that can be anywhere in thw world.
Cigarettes I wish I wasn’t. When I have the money I buy a lot of clothes, shoes and bags. I sound very effeminate here but when I have the funds I shop.
It seems like 2009 will be a great year for your career, as your work is currently on tour on the “ KIDS ARE ALRIGHT “ Group show, and you are featured here at LONDON MILES gallery in a 4 person show, called Waking Aurora, along side Nimit Malavia, Yuta Onoda and Scott Belcastro. What do you have planned for us in May?
Im excited about this show as its kind of my first real show in the UK. There will be my new piece that Im working on as I type, which is a diptych. It’s a piece that is much more focused on composition I think so it’ll be interested to see the reaction. I think there will be a total of 4 or 5.
Your also a featured artist in Hunt & Gather, the art book publication that comes out this September internationally. How do you feel about all of this? How do you see the next few years working out for you?
I feel flattered as always to be included in any form of publication. There’s a sense of pride when you see that someone has seen something in your work worthy to share with others on your behalf. So I can’t thank you enough Tina. I hope the next few years I keep progressing with my work. I know I want to get a lot better than the level I feel I’m at right now. For 2010 I would really love to get more shows and a solo show would be a dream come true. Not forgetting to mention the paintings I have planned.
I never like to predict the future it never resembles what you imagine.
My works can be seen at my site www.timleeart.com there are some prints on sale there and obviously you can see my works when I show at London Miles and I shall be there on the day of the show too.
Image to Right is the print Tim has for sale on his website,,go and get yours now! Its only 25£
“Of a Thousand Tears of a Thousand Songs”A2 sized Lithographic Print 130 GSM Limited Edition 100
Visit Timothly's webiste HERE
Waking Aurora opens May 7th from 7:00pm to 10:00pm and showcases original art work by Timothy along with Scott Belcastro, Nimit Malavia, Yuta Onoda.