Charlene Man has made adorably quirky illustrations her signature, and has said that "happy" is a key identifier of her style and approach. Credit: On Pedder

For the Hong Kong-based artist and illustrator Charlene Man, laziness is not a bad word. It is, instead, something to celebrate – time off to do absolutely nothing productive.

It’s a concept she began working on after quitting her day job and having to help her parents sell a house in the United Kingdom. Man had planned to go freelance then, and every day her mother would tell her (in rather typical Asian fashion) to “stop being lazy” and to “find a job”.

charlene man

The cute and quirky Joy of Being Lazy shrine is at On Pedder Takashimaya S.C. and runs from now to 30 April.

As a response, Man leaned all the way into being lazy. “That inspired me to make being lazy my full-time job,” she said in an interview with FEMALE.

In a fortuitous way, that’s had its returns. In 2016, Man landed her first solo exhibition Down Time, a show of paintings, screen prints, publications and sculptures that celebrate the value of doing nothing. It debuted in Osaka then went on a tour to show in Perhaps Gallery in Saga in Japan, and the Odd One Out gallery in Hong Kong.

charlene man
Credit:On Pedder

In addition to a curated selection of laziness-adjacent designer footwear and accessory options, Man has also come up with a limited edition range of cards and a silkscreened tote bag with artwork inspired by Georges Seurat.

Most recently, Man has collaborated with the luxury multi-label footwear retailer On Pedder on a project called The Joy of Being Lazy. It’s a spiritual continuation of Down Time that includes versions of Man’s lazy shrines and blown-up versions of her goddess of laziness idol of idleness.

READ MORE: 4 Modern Bohemians On The Art Of Letting Go

At these shrines, you can fill up a to-do list and then slide it into a shredder disguised as the shrine’s offering box. Think of it as a playful bit of catharsis.

Below, we speak with Man on how the idea of celebrating laziness came to be, and how she practices it day-to-day in her own life.

charlene man
Credit:On Pedder

Man’s installation will also be on show at other On Pedder outposts in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Jakarta.

You studied and lived in London for years before moving back to Hong Kong in 2014. How was the move, and how did laziness fit into the lifestyle in such a frenetic city?

“I’m glad I made the decision to move back at the time. Living in London with freelance work isn’t easy, especially for a recent graduate. Moving back has helped me to see Hong Kong from a new perspective.

I was fascinated by subcultures and sceneries, which led to me publishing zines such as Villain Hitting and Between (the former a cheeky guide to the Chinese folk practice of cursing enemies by slapping paper effigies with a piece of footwear, and the latter a heartfelt ode to the everyday experience of walking around Hong Kong).”

Are there common perceptions about laziness you want to challenge?

“When I started the project, I had a goal to change the negative connotation of the word. Even under the pandemic, people are still worrying about taking breaks and not fully cherishing time to do nothing.

Society is changing with automation and new technology – we can really embrace and enjoy lazy time and not feel guilty when we have a lazy weekend.”

charlene man
Credit:On Pedder

At the lazy shrine, you can fill up a to-do list and then shred it to oblivion in the offering box.

Are there other artists who inspire you when thinking about laziness?

“One of my favourite books – I also call it my bible – is How To Be Bored by Eva Hoffman. I also love the game Katamari, and I once interviewed the creator Keita Takahashi for my dissertation. His artistic journey and how he outlines the importance of play is a big influence on my practice.”

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Can you talk about the concept for this project and how the elements came about?

“I’ve always been interested in all the stories, ceremonies and art from different religions, even though I’m not particularly religious. The shrine concept came about when I was working on my solo exhibition Down Time in Japan. While I was there, I visited numerous shrines and temples and was amazed by how fast visitors learn and adopt the etiquette.

That’s how the idea of the lazy shrine came about. Once people learnt that it’s a shrine – especially in Japan – it didn’t need much explanation. I’m guessing the shredding experience allows the audience to find some humour.”

charlene man
Credit:Charlene Man

An installation view of だらだら神社 (Lazy Shrine) from Man’s Down Time exhibition in 2016.

In your own life, how do you slow down to enjoy laziness?

“I’m actually quite a hard-working person, which is also why I feel so strongly about promoting and reminding myself I need to be lazy. I tend to listen to my body when it comes to time out. If I’m tired, then I will take a break and go on a stroll in my neighbourhood to find inspiration.”

When you’re being lazy, what do you like doing? Or not doing, as it were.

“I avoid my desk 100 per cent. Don’t even get close to it. I tend to leave my studio. If I can, I’ll always travel. I know it’s hard to travel far right now, but what I usually do is explore a new area in Hong Kong, or go and eat something and treat my body!”