Ten Questions 022 – Simon Birch

November 17th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Simon Birch is and artist based in Hong Kong. Working mainly in large-scale, figurative oil paintings, his recent direction has included installation and film. Past exhibitions have been held throughout the world including at London’s Haunch of Venison Gallery and Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art. With more recent shows in Hong Kong, such as ‘Laughing With A Mouth Full Of Blood’ and a large-scale collaborative exhibition entitled Hope & Glory. Filling the 20,000 square feet of ArtisTree Exhibition Space in Beijing’s Taikoo Place, the installation took the viewer through a metaphysical world, or ‘conceptual circus’ and saw Birch working alongside a broad range of collaborators including artist Stanley Wong, photographer Wing Shya, British music producer James Lavelle, filmmaker Eric Hu, designer Douglas Young, architect Paul Kember, actor Daniel Wu and Beijing-based artist Cang Xin. Birch’s work explores the concept of ‘universal ideas of transition, the ambiguous moment between an initiation and a conclusion, the unobtainable now and the future, inevitably crashing towards us’.

His work has been featured and reviewed in many international publications, including Artforum, The Guardian, The International Herald Tribune, Time Out and the New York Times. He was kind enough to take some time out and get involved with our Ten Questions series.

1. How do you describe what you do?
I make art with paint and sometimes with film and steel and whatever else time and resources allow. What I do is the thing that stops me killing myself.

2. What made you want to do what you do?
It’s all I can do. No-one, or no-thing made me do it and equally no-one or no-thing stopped me. Though there have been many hurdles, my overwhelming compulsion to produce art has never receded.

3. How would you describe your workplace?
A fucking mess but has a lovely view of the South China sea.

4. What is your favourite colour?
It hasn’t been discovered yet, perhaps it’s beyond our ability to perceive. Or maybe a nice, retro, pale blue…

5. Who is your favourite artist or writer?
Well, that’s a tough one. I’ve never really met any artists or writers so I guess I don’t have any favourites. Maybe Cang Xin and Li Wei from Beijing who I know personally and really admire. There’s some who’s work I admire from afar, contemporary, more conceptual, artists, James Turrell, Maurizio Cattelan, Santiago Sierra. I’m more into dead artists I suppose, Caravaggio being the one I’m most interested in these days. I like the work of comic book artists, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko from the 60’s. They’re dead too. Writers; though I like the science fiction work of Ian M Banks, I generally only read history and science.

6. What was your previous job?
I worked construction as a labourer on the Tsing Ma bridge here in Hong Kong. I was mainly doing work abseiling, drilling concrete and taking measurements, cutting steel, all kinds of things. I was a DJ for a long time too but all this was just stuff to pay the rent until I could survive off my paintings.

7. Do you work within a team? If so, how many people do you work with?
I work alone in my studio 7 days a week. I have a couple of managers and assistants but I rarely see them. They have their own office in Central Hong Kong where they work under the name Future Industries. They look after the practicalities and also pursue and manage the very large installation projects that are in various stages of progress, as well as consult for commercial stuff and they also manage a couple of emerging artists.

8. Do you listen to music whilst working? If so, what do you listen to?
Constantly. Today it’s Fink, Azealia Banks, Selah Sue, Sparklehorse, The Cramps and Radio 1 Extra with MistaJam.

9. Who inspires you to do what you’re doing?
Everyone and everything. No-one and nothing. Point is that it all comes from inside me but I’m so in awe of so many people as humans, creators, friends…and the things they do or create. It’s just not direct. People often ask if I get the equivalent of writers block but I have the opposite, can’t turn it off. Too many ideas. It will eventually destroy me or save me I guess.

10. Which advice has helped you the most?
Shut the fuck up and get on with it.

Big thanks to Simon for his answers. We’re huge fans of his work so it’s a privilege for us to have him involved. To see more of his brilliant painting and installation work check his website and Facebook page.

To see previous responses to our Ten Questions, you can check out the rest of the series here. There are some corkers so do have a look.

Thanks for reading


4 Responses to “Ten Questions 022 – Simon Birch”

  1. Very nice work

    Comment by Stewart — November 17th, 2011 @ 11:09 am |
  2. Psst: Steve Ditko is still alive.

    Comment by Tom Muller — November 18th, 2011 @ 3:27 pm |
  3. Thanks Tom — You sure do love your comics don’t you ;)

    Comment by Mat Dolphin — November 18th, 2011 @ 3:30 pm |
  4. Wonderful conversation. The artworks are all beautifully done.

    Comment by Sybil Wieners — November 19th, 2011 @ 2:17 am |

Leave a Reply