11 March - 10 May 2021, at Gallery HZ
Gallery HZ is pleased to present Strange Times, a solo exhibition of acclaimed artist Simon Birch. Transforming the gallery with his kaleidoscopic paintings and drawings, Strange Times is a retrospective of Simon Birch’s two decades-long career as one of Hong Kong’s most successful contemporary artists. Having ventured in ambitious video art, cross-continents institutional collaborations, and large scale installations with his infamous The 14th Factory project (Los Angeles, 2017), Birch’s recent return to painting is a timely and highly anticipated revival of his studio practice during an unprecedented time of social isolation.
Widely known for his striking figurative paintings, Birch has always taken a keen interest in the human form as a vessel for the ephemeral. His abstract portraits depict the body in kinetic movements interwoven between extremes; contract and expand, pain and pleasure, resilience and vulnerability. Paintings such as Kid Gold Knot, 2018 materialise the physicality of flesh in vital and expressive brushstrokes, creating a sculptural dimension to the human body that brings to surface the physical, psychological and emotional tension often buried within.
Also on display are Birch’s new abstract paintings, an intimate introspective of his previous works. While absent of the human body, paintings such as Untitled, 2021 exude a palpable kinetic vibration through its dynamic composition, its restless layers of paint unfold to reveal a cosmology of kaleidoscopic brushstrokes. Reacting to the fractured perception of everyday world, Birch’s paintings explore ways in which our humanity is apprehended in a world increasingly characterised by fragmentation and interconnection. Occupying a full gallery wall each, these oversize paintings are the culmination of a year-long introspection prompted by the pandemic, resulting in meditation on the contemporary human condition through microscopic details in life. Details of which while previously overlooked, are now brought to the forefront of our new collective reality with revived importance.
Birch’s recent return to painting has allowed him to revisit the medium after a recent shift in creative direction, which has seen him planning the London edition of The 14th Factory. With London in Lockdown due to the Pandemic, plans are in progress to realize this ambitious experiential spectacle in a 200,000 sq ft industrial space right here in Hong Kong. For Birch, the circumstantial restrictions have, paradoxically, offered him more creative freedom to reinvigorate his practice with a fresh approach, paving ways for more international artistic endeavours in the near future.