Hong Kong-based artist, Jovial Yeung is making waves in the art world through her compelling and heartfelt work, which challenges destructive human behavior and demonstrates her compassion for the environment and animal welfare. Since 2013, Yeung has been researching treatments inflicted on animals in what she calls ‘the victims of human selfishness’. Exploring her own personal exploration of fears and life challenges, her previous installations include Revenge, My Wrist and In Peril.
1. Where did your motivation come from to use your artwork to highlight the plight of animals? Is this a theme that you intend to continue exploring?
Three years ago, I read a piece about smuggling ivory and baby elephants. At the time, this really shocked me. I thought how cruel this was for the animals, and that humans are selfish. I wanted to get people’s attention and stop their suffering, so I started The Victim.
The theme, which is on going, is about the animals as victims. The work shows how animals are subjected to torturous living conditions and how they are often killed in vain. My work refers to all animals that are suffering in different ways because of mankind, and not just the endangered species.
2. Do you consciously use any eco-friendly materials in the production of your works?
I use recycled glass bottles and other materials that are 100% recyclable. Glass is a really amazing material, and is something which people always treasure and take care of. By using an antique restorer and a cast, I can alter the recycled glass products into art, thereby changing people’s mindset to see something as a piece of art, and not just a piece of rubbish. I hope to use my work to educate the public on how we can use recycled products to make real objects. We don’t always have to buy new things.
3. What effects do you hope your works will have in the minds of viewers?
In the series, The Victim, gold leaf is used to emphasize the body part that’s valuable to humans. I chose to use gold, because this material is valued in the eyes of humans, but at the same time, it is vulnerable to human abuse. The same thing can also be said of animals and the environment. Gold is also a good visual contrast against the white canvas.
The first piece I did in the Victim series was the Polar Bear. These animals are subjected to habitat loss due to global warming, I used transparent glass to emphasis that although you can’t see global warming happening in front of your eyes, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Four years ago, I produced a piece of work called Revenge, whereby I pushed the limit of the glass to try to make it as long, thin and delicate as possible. The installation was inspired by mosquitoes - an insect you can easily kill with your fingers, but which can also cause you great pain and suffering. The stings represent the weakness and fragility of the life of the animals, but they also serve as a warning to us. My intention for the installation was to make it horrible and to emphasize this point.
4. How was your own thinking towards animals evolved as you worked on your series of artworks?
Before I make a piece, I need to know more about the subject. For The Victim, for example, I wanted to know more about who purchases these [animal] products and who makes money from the industry. Some of my findings really shocked me.
I used to ask myself, why should we care about events that are far away, but it’s all connected to us. If we ignore the problems of animals, then the human race will be trouble, so we should try our best to help the planet. At the very least, we should have less of an impact on nature; we need to maintain a balance.
I am, by no means, on top of the world, but I try to avoid meat products and toxic materials. I think what is important, is how we treat animals. I hope that my work helps to inform more people about the cruel activities that occur throughout the world, and that this in turn evokes a change.