Simon Ma straddles the dual tigers of Hong Kong and Shanghai to carve a distinct niche for himself in the worlds of architecture, art and interior design
Some people aim for fame on their home soil, while others strive for stars further afield. Simon Ma typifies the latter. Fame was not and has never been his ultimate goal; his interest lies in creating change in the ways of life in China through art and design – and this is why the designer chose Shanghai over Hong Kong.
Born in Hong Kong and educated in England from the age of 13, Ma was greatly influenced by the architecture and design of the Western world.
This was balanced by a long-held love for Chinese painting, creating a foundation to help him understand and appreciate the beauty of difference. Like many graduates, Ma decided to return to his Asian roots to launch his career, but chose to go further north, to Shanghai – a city widely regarded as Hong Kong’s greatest rival.
‘I think as a designer, one has to be adventurous,’ says Ma – indeed, when he moved to Shanghai 13 years ago, the nascent design scene presented challenges to anyone attempting to penetrate it. ‘Back then, it was already very hard to become a designer in China, not the least if you were a Hong Konger. Even now, with Shanghai becoming an international city, a large proportion of architecture and design we see every day still carries the stamp of international names.’
In spite of – or perhaps because of – this difficult creative environment, Ma’s artistic footprints can be seen all over Shanghai as well as different provinces of China, from designer chairs to packaging, interior design to architecture, all clearly identified by his eclectic style infused with his signature Chinese brushstroke and ink-splash paintings.
His Shangri-La Chair series celebrates modern Chinese – ‘Mod-Chin’ – style, a new wave of design-art born in China which has also received international interest, with Ma’s chair put on the block at the Dorotheum Auction House in Vienna.
‘I have been studying the Mod-Chin style for a very long time. It’s a style which maintains the classic beauty of the east and west without losing modernity,’
the designer notes.