World / Reporter's Journal

Hong Kong artist connects East and West with art

By Zhang Yuwei (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-10-06 14:10

Simon Ma's love of nature has been the inspiration for his internationally acclaimed art works.

From the horse paintings in Miami that honor the late Chinese artist Xu Beihong to the giant dancing water drops installed in Milan, the Hong Kong native Ma blended his passion for nature -using bold ideas of Chinese and Western techniques - in his creative presentations.

"As an artist, I should have a social responsibility to tell people things [through art]," Ma said in an interview as he promoted his work in New York in September.

"There is so much negative news every day in the world, so we need more positive energy, and I hope my art can bring that to the viewers," said Ma.

Ma will serve as art director for the Chinese Pavilion and the China Corporate United Pavilion at the World Expo in Milan next year, overseeing the creative design of both.

"The theme will be environment-, nature-related," said Ma.

Hong Kong artist connects East and West with art

Ma uses Chinese techniques such as ink and calligraphy as well as his passion for music in the creative process. Ma's collections can be found in theShanghai Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Italian Center of Shanghai Expo and the National Museum in Beijing.

The Heart Water Ink exhibit currently showing at the Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University features more than 70 artworks including paintings, Chinese ink hybrids, freehand brushwork and large-scale dragon and horse sculptures.

Wary of being labeled a designer, Ma said he just wants to be an artist to create good art works for his audience. His works, however, have been taken by international luxury brands, including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati and RADO. Ma's water-drop design has been made into a jewelry collection by Chow Tai Fook.

Ma, 40, started studying under master Fan Tzu Teng at 7. "I am not from a wealthy family and none of my parents was an artist," Ma said. Ma moved to London at 13 for boarding school and started his art career in Shanghai at 26.

"Moving to London and Shanghai were two big turning points in my life," he said. Knowing very little Mandarin when he first moved to Shanghai, Ma said he started from scratch without any connection.

"You just have to believe in yourself and be sincere to people you meet," said the artist.

Hong Kong artist connects East and West with art

Last year, Ma met Liao Jingwen, the wife of the late Chinese painter Xu Beihong known for his ink paintings of horses, at a dinner party. Liao asked Ma to "bring Xu's horses back."

"I was honored but also under a lot of pressure actually because he was so famous," Ma recalled.

Xu was one of the first Chinese artists to articulate the need for artistic expressions that reflected a modern China at the beginning of the last century.

"I remember what Xu said about painting the horses: 'If you want to paint the horses, you need to treat them as your masters,' " Ma said.

Liao's trust helped Ma complete this ambitious mission of creating horse-themed works. Ma then spent time with horses during the filming of a documentary as part of the Chinese Dream series by China Central Television. "Then I developed this idea of 'ren ma' - the benevolent horse," said Ma, whose last name, coincidentally, means horse in Chinese.

"The horses are loyal, brave, humble and kind-hearted," Ma said. The benevolent horse, he said, brings back "spiritual strength" and "positive energy" to people.

"Ren ma can connect to people's hearts and help purify them and help them find the balance in [their] busy daily lives," said the artist.

Ma said his plans in the coming years are to "slow down" and focus more on being an art educator.

"I want to devote my energy into educating more youths," said Ma, whose art school opened in Shanghai last month.

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 Hong Kong artist connects East and West with art

Simon Ma and one of his large-scale horse sculptures, which is shown at the Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University.  Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 10/06/2014 page2)

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