tHE Simon Birch ARt ROOM
Simon Birch, a painter and installation artist, was born in Brighton, England in 1974. As a child, school could never hold his attention, he would always be drawing comics or painting on the side under the influence of his mother, who worked as an art teacher. At 16, with little academic success, he left school and entered straight into independent life working odd jobs in the gritty Midlands of working class England, eventually pursuing an interest in urban dance music as DJ and promoter. In 1997 however, after loosing one of his closest friends to gang violence, Birch left the country permanently, soon after settling down in Hong Kong, just before the former British colony handed back to China.
Upon arrival, he found work as a construction labourer on the Tsing Ma Bridge. Living in the neighborhood of Sai Ying Pun, Birch continued fine-tuning his work as an artist, developing his own projects, presenting his own exhibitions and cultivating a community of emerging artists, designers, film makers, architects and musicians which became the contemporary art scene in Hong Kong
Birch’s signature style of dramatic figurative work was soon noticed by the local community, and quickly led to many commissions, both locally and abroad. His series of paintings of Chinese mafia and, juxtaposing these, human figures falling through space were critically recognized and acknowledged with honours including the prestigious Louis Vuitton Asia Art Award and the Sovereign Art Foundation Award. His paintings generated an income that allowed the creation of independent exhibition projects in multiple media, collaborating with emerging and established talent, incorporating film, performance, installation, design and technology.
As his artistic career was accelerating, a dramatic twist. In 2008, at the age of 33, Birch was diagnosed with Natural killer (NK)/T-cell lymphoma, an aggressive cancer, and was told he might have only six months to live. With the support of his friends, the artist battled the deadly disease with a proactive strategy consisting of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, a drastic diet change and alternative therapies. He has since made a full recovery and shares his strategy with others going through the cancer journey.
It was after his battle with the cancer that he produced a series of his most-acclaimed works, including “This Brutal House (2008)” and ‘Hope and Glory (2010)” – a 30,000 sq. ft. multimedia project that is often considered one of Hong Kong’s most ambitious multi-media art project undertaken to date, which broke many records in art production in the city. His work has since been shown at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, London's Haunch of Venison, solo installations in Beijing, the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences and he curated and produced the massive ‘Daydreaming With…’ project in Hong Kong, another blockbuster installation with 30 international artists involved. Since his recovery, he also continues to donate his time and paintings to fund cancer research as well as many other charities.
To date, Birch’s largest scale multi-media installation, ‘The 14th Factory’ will transform over 150,000 sq. ft. of a heritage venue into an immersive and interactive art experience. The exhibition will premiere in New York in April 2016. An auction of the works will take place after the exhibition closes, and 100% of the proceeds will benefit NGOs for disadvantaged children and inner city youth.
Birch currently resides between Hong Kong and New York City.