Mei Le: Artist's greatest work is his life

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 26, 2013
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Mei Le

Unique artist Mei Le told that the greatest work of any artist should be his own life, whilst at the same time continuing to create his own distinctive art.

Mei Le, 31, began to work as a professional photographer in 2008, collaborating with China Daily, Robb Report Lifestyle, TimeOut Beijing, The Bund etc. He was especially famous for his portraits due to their unusual style.

His photography career went through phases of both commercial and artistic exploration, utilizing an understated and calm approach to express his personal style. Because of his clear artistic sensibility, Mei received the recognition and praise from famous Canadian-American architect Franck Gehry.

"When I was photographer, I feel proud when shooting a celebrity. Being proud is about needing that recognition to build up confidence," Mei said, "But after turning 29, I didn’t feel like I had to prove anything to anybody [anymore]."

Mei's hard-nosed personality made him stand out and helped him find his path in art. Recently, he designed the “cross cover” for the limited edition of ELLE CHINA's 25 Years special issue. A series of portraits by him is now on display in Shanghai's Moproo Gallery under the title "Campbell Soup Special for China."

"The work consists of 32 Campbell's Soup cans," Mei said, "But the cans are different because I changed their tags into Chinese local cuisine lingo, such as Ox Tongue in Chili Sauce, Duck Webs with Wasabi, Duck Intestines with Chili and Scrambled Eggs with Pig Brain."

"These dishes are a little gross and they are not average dishes for everyday Chinese life either. Obviously Americans will never eat anything like this, so it is specially made for China," he continued, "I also added Chinese characters like 'organic food,' 'made in the U.S.' and 'originally imported' on the tags which stand for ‘high-quality’ in the Chinese mind and mainstream value stakes. You can call it irony, but I created them without any emotion or hidden agenda."

Mei projected his thinking onto the creation, "I still don't understand why people eat meat. God created these animals to accompany mankind and exchange feelings and warmth, but when you are hungry you eat them. They don't want to die, but people eat them anyway. So is it part of people's animalistic nature or of God's love?"

The religious confusion also led Mei to create another work entitled "Holy Bible," which "indicates my confusion over religion," Mei said, "Catholics, Christians and Orthodox followers believe in the same God and use the same Bible, but have their own emphases. How could the simple issue of belief become so complicated? What's worse, people will use God's words and Bible to judge and hurt others in the name of love."

Despite his confusion, Mei's faith in God helps him go on. "I don't want to die in vain, so I struggle to continue," he said, "My dream sustained me at the beginning, which in turn draws you in and then pushes you to go on. Later, I found my faith in God."

In 2010 he began to fully engage in artistic design, such as painting, silk screen printing, mix-media, etc. Nevertheless, what satisfies him most, is a red robe he wears on many occasions.

Artist Mei Le in his beloved red robe. [] 

"Wearing such a robe is the greatest thing I have ever done in following my heart,” he said, "It's a church choir robe, not a so-called fashionable robe. When I wore it for the first time at an exhibition, I felt it would stay with me for a long time. Then I attended several events by Chanel, Dior and Jil Sander wearing it. These experiences are very important and are part of my life. "

"Basically speaking, the greatest work of an artist should be his own life; artists like Duchamp and Andy Warhol were just like that," he added, "If your works are merely physical objects, then you are not an artist, but just a man who produces artistic handicrafts."

Mei has a particular appreciation for both Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, "Warhol's life was short yet exuberant, whereas Dali lived in a world he had created for himself. They were also subjects of controversy, but now I understand why: they saw life as a game and being alive as the luckiest and most important thing. When a man realizes death can happen at any time, he will be desperate to live it his own way. They were such people, and this idea affects me profoundly. "

"Five years ago, I didn't think once about what art I would be making," he added, "I'm not doing any business that requires me to make plans and earn more money than I do now. No. I'm just experiencing life and all it entails. I don't know who I will meet or what will happen in the next five years, but I'm sure everything will go according to my desires at the time, which will only make life more beautiful. "

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