Artist, painter, illustrator & printmaker Mimi Leung doesn't need much of an introduction. Famous for her intensely bright coloured pictures and 'mischievous' characters, Mimi is currently regarded as one of the top illustrators worldwide.
Kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule, we had the great pleasure of catching a brief glimpse into the life of this very talented artist.
Full of life, movement and an overwhelming sense of humour, it's hard not to fall in love with the amazing work of Mimi Leung. Her incredibly unique style and approach to her work is truly one of a kind, with her strong personality and sense of joy that permeates her work, it's that sense of personality and character that immediately draws you in.
Preferring to "add to the awesomeness of life than to the misery", Mimi aims to "make light of darkness" with her "imagination and sense of humour". But all fun aside, Mimi's work aims to "hit people full-on straight away, but also have the thoughts and detail to sustain interest in the long run" - and with her intricate lines and highly detailed interwoven patterns, you'll find yourself lost in her work for hours.
Born in Hong Kong and raised in England, Mimi studied at Central St Martins and the Royal College of Art in London. She later relocated to Australia where she spent several years working with local aboriginal communities in Alice Springs, "doing workshops and stuff".
After a few years in hiding (and to the pleasure of many artists, creative communities, and generally anyone who has seen her work) Mimi finally made her return to the city life, ultimately arriving in Melbourne where she currently resides. Having lived and worked all over the world, Mimi has built up an impressive list of clientele having worked for the likes of The New York Times, The Guardian, Vice, Mute Magazine and Dazed and Confused.
However, Mimi's talents aren't limited to editorial work - having recently been commissioned by Adidas Originals & Platypus Shoes to work on their latest shop-front window display at their Chapel Street store, Mimi continues to take her artistic talents to new heights.
In the midst of all this and more, Mimi was kind enough to take the time out to have a quick chat with us about some new projects, her recent talk at Field Trip and her new found love for visual merchandising!
You've lived in places all around the world, can you tell us a little bit about what that's been like?
Not as exciting as it might sound... it was a bit crazy for about 2 years and then it slowly settled down. I used to love flying and travelling and was pretty good at living/working out of a suitcase. Every time I tried to do stuff in a different place I learnt something new, about myself and other people... but I think I’m a bit tired of having to start at zero all the time. And I have more stuff these days, like a dog... and... stuff.
Has that influenced your work? Moving around you must have absorbed things from all over the place, right?
I like looking at things and thinking about the things around me, I take it in subconsciously I think. So, yeh, the things around me definitely influence me in some way.
Are there noticeable differences between the art scene or culture between HK, UK & AUS?
I’ve not been that much a part of any art scene, so I really could not say. But culture, definitely. Culture and history and how that affects people’s behaviour is really interesting to me.
"I've probably become a lot nicer since moving to Melbourne. And I hate the sun less."
When did you know this is what you wanted to be doing?
When I was pretty young I wanted to be an artist... it was either that or a surgeon - because I liked the gore, which is probably not the best reason to want to be a surgeon...
Your work is full of life & colour, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Life and the colours found in life!
Have any of your influences changed over time?
I think I used to look too far inwards and not enough out, I guess the change has been trying to find a balance.
A brilliant idea pops into your head, how do you capture it?
Sketches, scribbles, illegible notes.
You recently gave a talk at Field Trip, what was that like?
Nuts. I was really hyper and I zoomed through the whole thing in about half the time. I’m too scared to watch the video anytime soon! But the audience was great and Jeremy + Charlotte at The Jacky Winter Group did such an awesome job at making a really relaxed atmosphere.
It was also amazing to meet the other speakers who are some of the best artists, illustrators & designers out there today. Aside from the nerves, I had loads of fun and learned quite a few things, got some brill feedback and made new friends :)
You've worked for some really big clients such as Adidas, Nike & The New York Times, do you have a dream client you would love to work with?
Right now, after the Adidas Originals window installation recently, I’d love to do more 3D installation stuff - like stage design for a gig, or a set for a fashion shoot - who wouldn’t? I just love it when I get to work for someone who lets me go for it and is up for a bit of mad, colourful playfulness.
"I just love it when I get to work for someone who lets me go for it and is up for a bit of mad, colourful playfulness."
Any exciting projects you're currently working on?
I'm planning an online project/exhibition for later in the year so stay tuned! Other than that I'm keeping busy with a bit of editorial for one of my fav food mags and some side projects - like an album of stupid robot dance tunes - oh I should send you a few tracks, you being Robotic and all.
Yes! We would love to hear your robotic dance tunes! In the meantime, the Flash video your making for the track 'Balls' sounds pretty fun.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to stay in one place for longer than a year and a half, get to know more people, hope to keep growing and doing new things with my work.
If you could work with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
ERRRRRRRRRRR, I don’t even know where to start.... I guess I’d want to work with someone who’s stuff is totally different to mine, like an architect? Or someone who could take my work into a completely different dimension - like a roller coaster engineer. That would be mad.
Right now I love listening to… BBC Radio 4 Extra.
My favourite movie is… I really loved Wreck-It Ralph.
The last great book I read was… Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking.
If I wasn't doing this I'd be… pretty sad.
The best advice I was ever given was… just turn up (but also, I found out later, don’t just stand there....)
I couldn't live without… having fun once in a while.