About The Artist
Hometown: Brighton, UK
Lives and Works: Hong Kong
Born in UK of Armenian descent, Simon Birch has lived and worked in Hong Kong for fifteen years, and is known for his energetic figurative oil portraits that have put him on the artist to watch list. Birch’s artistic practice does not limit to single media, he also works on multimedia projects including film, installation, sculpture, and performance.
He is a winner of the Sovereign Prize Manfred Schoeni Award in 2004 and Louis Vuitton Asian Art Prize in 2007. Having exhibited at numerous solo exhibitions in Hong Kong, Beijing, Los Angeles, Miami, and Singapore, and produced large-scale projects like Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus (2010) and Daydreaming With… The Hong Kong Edition (2012), this energetic artist is set for an upcoming show in London later this year and a massive installation project in the New York City.
We talk to Simon about his life, obsessions and his next big thing.
Your source of inspiration…
Everything inspires me. I see subtle glimpses of magic that propel me, in the turn of a phrase, the blink of an eye, a sound, an image, a scent, a temperature, the light. I’m a total culture/life sponge. Today it’s big waves, UK garage, science fiction, Crass, love, snow, wilderness, Burkhard Heim, DJ EQ, Schoolboy Q…
The ‘freeze moments’ in your paintings…
I guess I’m trying to hold on to something that’s lost forever.
I bring in models who ‘feel’ right, especially with a certain type of personal history and cultural background. You know, people who represent the contemporaries. I direct them to act, fall, twist, react in certain ways and take often thousands of photographs with a very basic, lo-fi set up.
Experience with starlet-model Shu-qi…
She is incredible! When I asked her to give me a sad face, in a blink of an eye she’s almost weeping, I was shocked and worried, so asked if she’s okay. She said it’s all just acting.
What keeps you going and challenging yourself?
Making art is a simple act that keeps me sane, positive, motivated. I never set out become anything in particular, only to live creatively and push the scope of my experience through adventure and passion. Paint, my work, means something to me, the same as to anyone with dreams. This is where my heart beats hardest, it’s where I thrive.
It’s not that I’m challenging myself, it’s that I’m obsessed with making art. It teaches me, it humbles me, lifts me and it destroys me, it drives me fucking mad and it saves me but either way, I know I’m alive. There may be no future in it, but it’s a present worth remembering. I couldn’t be more blessed to live this life.
The near-death experience….
After nearly dying some years back, I make the most of every minute. And I’m desperately trying to make good art. I’m a long way from doing so but I won’t give up. I’ve spent my life fighting. To get out of poverty, to survive, to escape, to love, to succeed. It’s been a roller coaster but I can’t get off now, scary and awesome. Am in too deep.
Tell us about your next project…
The project I am working on is called The 14th Factory, it’s a 250,000 square feet installation in NYC. It’s actually 12 installations in one, bound together by a central narrative. Over the years I’ve created my own mythology, monsters, figures suspended, explosive, crashing, beauty and violence sino-colonial history, science fiction… it is all pouring out in this new project on a mammoth scale. The project is experiential, completely immersive once one is through the door – one can see towering sculptures, video environments, performers, darkness, secret passages…. it’s a pitch black wonderland.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I can barely see where I am in a week. My situation is remarkably fragile.
By Miss Wong/ Altermodernist
Photo credits: Saatchi Art