Horses and dragons kick off art show

Updated: 2014-07-11 07:20

By LI ANG in New York (China Daily USA)

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In Chinese his surname name — Ma — means horse. He's always had a thing for horses. And it is the year of the horse. So what better way to kick off a series of major international exhibitions 3 Giants of Chinese Contemporary Art in Miami this Saturday than with the work of Simon Ma.

"Simon is like a celebrity," said Carol Damian, director and chief curator of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in Miami. "He always attracts a crowd around himself and his art."

"He is also a musician and a furniture designer, that fascinated me about him," she added. Damian said she met Simon Ma at the Asia Art festival in Miami two years ago and invited him to work on a project with the Frost Art Museum.

Ma's work has been exhibited at La Biennale di Venezia, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Museum of Chinese Art in Shanghai and Amsterdam's Leslie Smith Gallery.

"As a product of China's remarkable economic and political transformation, Ma openly appropriates, adapts and re-invents himself, while maintaining respect for his rich cultural heritage," Damian explained. "His contemporary works employ the same dynamic and emotionally charged process in the Chinese traditional ritualistic and complex application of ink and paint."

Ma's show, Heart • Water • Ink, opening on Saturday and running through Oct 19, is a tribute to late Chinese artist Xu Beihong (1895-1953), a Chinese master painter primarily known for his ink paintings of horses. He was also regarded as one of the first artists to create Western oil paintings with Chinese themes.

"My new world tour is greatly inspired by Xu Beihong, who is remembered for creating new national art by combining nature and realism, uniting traditional Chinese with Western painting styles," said Ma.

"Xu modernized the landscape of Chinese ink painting tradition and brought that into the 20th century," Damian said. "He was one of the first great masters to bring the tradition into the contemporary world and that is what Simon is trying to do."

"I think Xu inspires Simon to go contemporary while keeping in mind of where he's from," she added.

Ma was named "Outstanding Cross-Over Artist 2013" by the Shanghai Tatler; "Designer of the Year 2012" by; the L'Oreal Vogue Media Award in 2008; and named Cultural Ambassador by the United Nations Association in 2006.

Despite a busy schedule, Ma will be in Miami for the opening. The public is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, which will feature a live freehand brushwork demonstration by Ma.

With a focus on Ma's works with a horse theme, Heart • Water • Ink will showcase more than 70 pieces, including paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, 3D art video and large-scale sculptures of dragons.

Ma makes no secret of the fact that he is a horse lover and the coincidence of his name and the zodiacal year make for good vibes.

"Through my horses, I hope viewers will experience the beauty, courage and strength of the Chinese people," Ma said.

But there are also the dragons, which are interpreted differently in the East and West.

"I think Simon's dragons are really impressive, not scary, but powerful and beautiful," Damian said. "He splashes paint on the dragons, so there's a lot of the gold color on them, they look like creatures from fairy tales."

"I'm really curious how children respond to this dragon show," she said. "I don't think they'll find Simon's dragons scary."