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          Adam Birch - Like Something Almost Being Said, 2024
          Adam Birch - Like Something Almost Being Said, 2024
          Adam Birch - Like Something Almost Being Said, 2024
          Adam Birch - Like Something Almost Being Said, 2024
          Artist Adam Birch

          Like Something Almost Being Said

          Adam Birch

          Cape Town
          6 June - 22 August 2024

          Southern Guild Cape Town is pleased to announce Like Something Almost Being Said, a solo exhibition of functional timber sculptures by South African artist Adam Birch from 6 June to 22 August 2024.

          Entirely hand-sculpted and crafted from locally felled trees, the body of work features forked seating and large-scale functional forms emerging from an idiosyncratic and embodied conversation between object and maker.

          Each of Birch’s artworks have been made through the singular use of a felled tree. The supple curves, hollows and prongs of each work have come into being without the traditional assistance of assemblage or joinery. His mode of making requires an alert, limber hand. Relinquishing pre-determined or prescriptive form, Birch acquiesces to what each piece of timber asks of him. “It’s about exploring the different shapes the wood can yield – pushing the boundary of what the material can hold,” he shares. “It’s a process of refinement rather than making.”

          Birch’s practice roots itself in a honed and intimate understanding of the language of trees. After more than two decades of working as an arborist, he is able to identify a species on sight, innately familiar with the density of its timber, the undulating movement of its grain, the pliability of the wood beneath the coarse bark.

          The corporeality of Birch’s finished works presents a strange, visceral experience. They have been wrestled into sleek submission, refined to a point that belies the arduous, deeply physical process demanded of their making. These forms are pure in their final manifestations; they appear fluid, organic, seemingly emerging as another natural epoch of the tree’s enduring lifespan.

          Working out of his open-air workshop in Noordhoek, Cape Town, Birch’s sculpting process relies on a most trusted and nonconventional piece of machinery – the chainsaw. After stripping away the tree’s bark, the inner wood is sealed to slow the wood’s drying process. Each species dries at its own steady pace – some trunks will sit in the workshop for years before being pulled into the sandy outdoor space of Birch’s arena. Using spray paint, he ‘sketches’ upon the tree’s dappled body, marking loose, ringed shapes that will eventually be hollowed out to realise the work’s form. “This is a brutal, dangerous tool used in a strange application,” Birch shares. “The intensity, the sheer noise and the physical risk, encourages a very singular focus. This is a simultaneous process of concentration, survival, adrenaline, and intention.”

          Spurning the traditional confines of a studio space, Birch’s practice exists in – and is inextricably bound to – the outdoors. His chosen mode of making does little to eliminate or neutralise elemental forces, but instead positions the artist within and amidst forces of wind, rain, heat and debris. This exposure has required Birch to cultivate a rugged kind of knowledge. He has learned to pay attention to the slow arc of the sun, the humidity of the air, the shifting weather patterns of the coast’s mercurial climate.

          Like Something Almost Being Said features several immense forks – a significant and recurring shape within Birch’s sculptural vocabulary. Their bifurcated forms emerge at a critical point within the tree’s anatomy. Adapted to withstand the most pressure and bare the weight of the sprawling top branches, the fork is home to the hardest wood and the most unpredictable grain. While other arborists ordinarily discard this obstinate part of the tree’s form, Birch is enthralled by it. Spontaneously led by the tree’s grain, the shape is extracted, meticulously refined to accommodate one – or multiple – seated bodies.

          Birch’s artworks present a paradox: these forms appear simple, straightforward, singular in their material, immediately understood. Yet they’re of a metaphysical quality; they have been changed in essence into something of utility and function, imbued with a reinvigorated purpose that diverges from the essential quest of a tree: to simply be.

          The exhibition’s title has been drawn from Philip Larkin’s 1967 poem, ‘The Trees’. The English poet’s composition honours the tree as an allegorical vessel for fated cycles of mortality and renewal, decay and rebirth, physicality and transcendence. Through this lens, Birch’s works become energetic carriers for something budding and full of promise; they have been born of what was once deadened, now offered new vigour in their reimagined, alchemised forms.

          In a contemporary milieu of disconnect and increasing virtual and synthetic intervention within the arts sphere, Birch’s practice embodies a commitment to ecological truths, amplifying the circular interrelation of the human experience and the natural world.

          Like Something Almost Being Said
          by Adam Birch runs concurrently with Madoda: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Madoda Fani and Six Prayers by King Houndekpinkou.