Simo Tse makes you look at things differently. Whether it’s through encountering his art or having a conversation with him, Simo’s thoughtful and considered responses, have a unique way of both collapsing and expanding your understanding of notions that you interact with on a daily basis. Through his deep interrogation of time, care, home, and identity, he gives you reason to pause, to think twice, think deeper about how these notions affect your day-to-day life.
Take his artwork Living in a Blur (2020) for example. This series of workout-from-home videos are assembled into a lazy timekeeper. There is no end or finish. As a viewer, you can choose to start from any point, watch at any time. The videos are on an infinite loop. Watching these over and over again, we’re reminded of how social interactions have evolved over the last few years. With stay-at-home mandates and limitations on movement, we spent a lot of time interacting through screens. How has that altered our relationships with one another? With ourselves? With time and productivity? These are just some of the questions that we’ve found ourselves asking while exploring Simo’s work.
His journey to becoming an artist is one that has spanned decades and continents. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Simo Tse now resides in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, having made pit stops in Hong Kong and London along the way. The desire to pursue art has been a constant for him. Art has always been an inherent part of him and a way to help him navigate the many places he’s resided in—a tool for him to synthesize his experiences.
He moved to Amsterdam eight years ago to work at a graphic design studio. But after deep introspection, he heeded to the gnawing desire to quit and pursue art full-time. Since doing so, Simo has created time-based media artworks, like Living in a Blur (2020), which have been exhibited in shows around the world, including at Unseen Amsterdam, and most recently the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition 2022 at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen.
We speak with him about the pivotal moments that shaped his journey back to art.
Simo is wearing his favorite pieces from our Unisex Collection.
“I was not keen on team sports, nor conformity, ... ... ”
7115: Hi Simo, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. To begin, can you tell us where you’re chatting to us from. What does the view look like where you’re sitting?
Simo: I am sitting at my study desk looking through a window from a typical Dutch house with steep stairs. My room is facing one of the canals in Amsterdam, the water seems to always be flowing from my right to the left. My living space doubles as my working space.
7115: For The Journey, we’re really interested in looking at how all the dots connect in your life. If you were to map out the dots that led you here to becoming an artist, what would that look like?
Simo: Growing up as a queer child, I lived in my own head most of the time. I was not keen on team sports, nor conformity, which already rendered me a bit of a quiet rebel in a boarding school environment. Being capable in art lessons and mildly good at studying gave me a good disguise for many fronts: Simo is just arty-farty. Shrugged. I first enrolled as a Fine Art student for my undergraduate studies but opted for graphic design after one year. I did not want it hard enough. Working as a graphic designer has taught me about discipline but I was not satisfied. I came back to art later than my peers but I feel more urgent this time around.
7115: You’re currently based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. What brought you here and what’s it been like living in Amsterdam?
Simo: I moved to Amsterdam in 2014 for an internship at a Dutch graphic design studio. That was like a lifetime ago. The internship became a full-time job and eventually I decided to quit and to study at an art school. Amsterdammers are a tough crowd, especially with the arts, I am still finding my footing as a beginner-artist. The city itself appears to be harmonious but it is gradually becoming more and more restrictive. One thing I still appreciate is the resistance of commercial messages in public space. You often see more posters, designed by serious graphic designers, than advertisements.
7115: How has your concept of home evolved over the years? How do you define it right now?
Simo: Home has always been an abstract concept since I was young, relocating back and forth between schools and cities. I amuse myself that I have to do everything in duos: I went to two prep schools, two high schools, two universities and I had two formal jobs. For now, I define home as a socio-economic arrangement, and as a foreigner living and working in Europe, I think residency has more value than a physical home.
"I have to be honest and be protective of it. It’s like telling someone your little secrets."
7115: What is your process usually like to come up with a theme to explore?
Simo: I read and I have a collection of random news clippings, screen captures and I picked up information from people around me, rather subconsciously. I enjoy connecting and building a constellation of meanings around seemingly random things.
7115: A few of your works, including The Sun is Also a Star (2021) and Living in a Blur (2020), challenge our concepts of time and how we make use of it. What is your personal relationship with time right now?
Simo: Time is always linked with memory and the ability to remember. I work predominantly in videos and images, which are time-based media. I will always be fascinated by this subject.
7115: Care and connection—the meaning of it in our lives, and how it shows up—is also something that features prominently in your work. How do you offer care to your loved ones?
Simo: Care, for me, is not a subject but I try to implement it in everything I do. Graphic design could be a form of care because, expression aside, it deals with legibility and readability. With art, I usually work alone but it’s a very delicate part of myself. I have to be honest and be protective of it. It’s like telling someone your little secrets. I wrote about the notions of care in my Master’s thesis and I guess I was interested in how to articulate something that is quite general but intangible at the same time.
7115: To end, I want to ask you a question that plays on the idea of time. Let’s imagine that you’re sitting at a table with Simo at age 21, what would you like to tell this version of yourself?
Simo: Be daring. Respect yourself. Do Art.