Simon Birch, This Brutal House opens!

simon birch artist hong kong hk art painting

This Brutal House, Simon Birch’s latest exhibition launched on April 18th. The show is a major undertaking for the Hong Kong based artist. The opening night featured a mixture of new paintings, videos, installations and even performance art! The show was exhibited simultaneously in three spaces operated by the Chancery Lane Gallery. The majority of works are located in Chai Wan at the brand new Chancery Lane Art Projects.

After first checking out the Soho branch, which contains several important paintings, I headed out to Chai Wan. The gallery runs two separate spaces on the sixth floor of a former factory building. Arriving inside it felt as though we are entering a brand new era for Hong Kong art.

The massive Art Projects space is the first of its kind in Hong Kong. With high ceilings and a plain interior, the feel is more like a top-tier international gallery than the cramped rooms usually found in the city. (One thing I detest about the majority of galleries in Central is how they stack the artwork practically on top of each other with no care as to the mix and match of the works. It cheapens the viewing experience and makes the galleries come across as amateurs.)

Glancing around the room there were two podiums in front of a lighted sign that carried the name of the show: This Brutal House.

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On the podiums were a handful of masked men, somewhat menacing looking, standing and sometimes crouching down surveying the crowd.

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In front of this bunch was a crowd of girls all dressed in the same black outfit. On the command of the ringleader, a man with a gold and red mask, sporting a top hat, the group would change their pose. The dapper ringleader was in fact artist Simon Birch!

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In the center of the room was a large tank filled with water. Surrounding the perimeter were smaller tanks, each containing a colorful Siamese fighting fish. Simon’s large oil paintings were hanging against the walls.

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Some of them were adjacent to each other, presented in a series. Additional works were spread throughout the room.

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The gallery filled up quickly as people made their way between the video section down the hall and the main room.

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The video area was itself further divided into two main spaces. The first featured small booths showing clips of brutality from famous films. The second room, accessible from a narrow pathway, contained large screens on all sides. The footage here exhibited scenes shot in Hong Kong including a fight filmed in a tunnel in 360 degrees, and a pig getting beheaded.

The performance art portion of the night (in keeping with the theme of brutality,) took place in the center of the main room. During the middle of the opening party, the artist led the uniformed girls to surround the fish tank.

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On his command they began pouring the fighting fish into the central tank. Although you’d think a battle royale would have ensued, the fish mostly swam peacefully around the tank, probably freaked out by all of the attention they were getting by the gallery goers and their flashing cameras!

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With his remarkable painting abilities and sharp eye, Simon Birch could thrive anywhere. The fact that he calls Hong Kong home and captures characters and characteristics of this city makes his work all the more indispensable and precious. This Brutal House is on until June 30th. For more information, check out the Chancery Lane Gallery website.

The address of the Chancery Lane Art Projects space in Chai Wan is:

6/F Chai Wan Industrial City, Phase 1
60 Wing Tai Road, Chai Wan
Hong Kong

The address of the Central branch of the Chancery Lane Gallery is:
10 Chancery Lane
Just off of Old Bailey Street in Soho

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