I’ve been a longtime fan of Simon Birch, since his Hope & Glory Show. Working in oil he has a way of capturing movement and the ray of colours found in the human skin. We found a wonderful interview with him about his practices on Artasy that we had to share with you…
Hi, Can you introduce yourself for us? (Where you from etc…)
I’m Simon Birch. I was born in England, of an Armenian and a Russian, left home young, sneaked off around the world and, after many adventures, stopped in Hong Kong. I’ve been here for 10 years now and my career as an artist was born here.
What’s your background? Art school? Self learner? Art for Dummies?
Self taught with no education until a recent masters degree in fine art which I finished last year. when I was a kid I imagined I’d be a comic book artist but I got distracted by house music and spent many years Djing and promoting parties. painting was always a constant activity in my spare time.
How will you describe your art for somebody who doesn’t know your stuff?
I’d rather not. Better they just take a look and work it out for themselves.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Oil paint, film, people.
How long does it take you to produce a piece? Do you start out with a sketchbook or do you freehand all the way?
How long is a piece of string. Days, weeks or months. I usually have a dozen works in various stages of production at any one time. i start with a clear drawing on canvas and it just gets messier as I progress. One painting leads to another as I try to correct the flaws of the previous work.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Do you paint/draw/work outside sometimes? Where can we see your stuff?
I only work in my studio, it’s at the back of Hong Kong island and away from the city facing the sea. It’s a big industrial building so the space is large and cheap. My stuff is hard to find, it’s mostly hanging on peoples walls. hong Kong is not really on the world art radar and we don’t have institutions here that show artists work. There’s no modern art museum at all, not even a well known commercial gallery. I doubt the outside world knows I exist. My gallery here shows work for me sometimes. My installation work pops up around Hong Kong now and again but is always destroyed afterwards. There’s nowhere for it to go unfortunately, storage space is too expensive here. I once built a 50 meter long building full of sculpture and film, it was quite an achievement and extremely expensive. It’s currently in a million tiny pieces being turned into firewood i imagine.
Who influence you the most, any favourite artist(s)?
I’m influenced by people that make wonderful things and share them with the world. That’s what I try to do myself. Doesn’t necessarily mean artists. Architects, product designers, scientists…I’m constantly humbled by other peoples achievements. Here’s a few from this weeks reading, watching, listening; Ridley Scott, Rem Koolhaas, Stefan Sagmeister, The XX, Matthew Barney, Taryn Simon, James Lavelle, Spike Jonze, Jarred Diamond.
Living as an artist is sometimes difficult financially, any part time job?
I don’t think about money much other than getting enough to pay for the films I’m trying to make right now. I have enough income to pay rent, buy paint and eat. I don’t need much more. I haven’t had a day job since 1997. Lucky monkey.
Best Gallery in the world? and why?
It hasn’t been built yet. I like the turbine hall of the Tate Modern but not because it’s an art space, it’s just a nice public space. I went to Venice this year, I really liked the Arsenale space but more than that, the satellite shows that were in old Venetian houses. When the artist had really considered the space in his work, like an intervention, that was a lovely thing to see.
Best City to paint outside? and why?
Haven’t painted anywhere other than here. I imagine I’d like to work in NYC though. It has a similar energy to hong Kong. HK is a true 24 hour city and probably the closest environment to the landscape of Blade Runner you can find. That pace really is infectious. I couldn’t work anywhere too peaceful.
What are your plans in the near future? Any upcoming exhibitions?
Stay alive until plans for world domination come to fruition. I have a small show in HK in November and then an enormous installation project in April next year. That’s taking most of my time right now. It’s a 2000 sq meter, 20,000 square ft, space and I’m filling it with large sculptures, cinemas, installations and performance. The project is called Hope and Glory and is all about spectacle and wonder. There’s lots of science fiction and circus references, it’s experiential, something like wandering around a huge film set.