Pamela Mei Yee Leung was born in Hong Kong and lived there until she was sent to a boarding school in England at the age of fourteen. Language difficulties swayed her towards the visual arts as a means of self-expression. She continued her education in London, studying 3-D Design at Middlesex Polytechnic before taking a post-graduate diploma in ceramics at Goldsmiths College. Leung worked in London for 15 years, making ceramic sculpture, which was exhibited extensively in Britain and abroad. After a long period of illness, which prevented her from working, she moved her studio to Whitstable in Kent. She has recently been making work in bronze at the Meltdowns Art Foundry in Ramsgate.
The Chinese influences in Leung’s sculpture are very much apparent, the decoration and bold use of colour are inspired by traditional Chinese arts and some of her references are taken directly from Chinese mythology. However, her artistic training and education are wholly Western and consequently her approach is informal, personalised and expressive. The result is an intriguing combination, which defies easy classification.
In her figurative work, Leung uses human forms to express an attitude or emotion, but these creatures have animal heads or limbs giving them a character, which is both symbolic and surreal. The symbolism may come from Eastern mythology or Western folk tales, but it is also deeply personal and carries meanings which are domestically autobiographical but psychologically universal.
Leung also makes functional pieces such as jugs, fountains, doorknockers, incense burners and, more recently, birdcages. These pieces are often large, elaborate and highly decorative. They are unusual objects that are intended to be fun rather than practical. This aspect of Leung’s work shows her refreshing lack of esotericism. She expresses herself immediately and spontaneously and has little time for painstaking techniques or calculated conceptualism, but at the same time, her construction is technically audacious and she challenges the stereotypes of craft ceramics and kitsch ethnicity.
Leung’s work is hand-built from crank mixture clay, mainly using the coiling method. Stains and oxides are mixed into a basic matt white or shiny transparent glaze. These coloured glazes are then painted onto the sculpture after biscuit firing. The work is then fired to between 1160°C and 1200°C, which makes it suitable for external sites. The glaze process is often repeated several times to achieve greater depth.