Arborist Adam Birch unveils a new group of seven large timber sculptures, titled Phoenix, on display opposite the gallery in the pedestrian boulevard of the Silo District.
Most of the pieces which are large benches and tree fork seats, have been sculpted from timber, namely Camphor, English oak, Pin oak, Eucalyptus and Australian silkwood, that was burnt in the recent Cape Town fires. Birch’s vision is to take these damaged remnants of trees that include , that would not normally survive and would be discarded, and create something beautiful out of them – much like a phoenix, strong, vibrant and magnificent, rises from the ashes. Each symbolises the idea of re-birth, of something extraordinary emerging out of the darkness. In this regard, the works could also be considered a kind of response, a commentary of sorts, to the recent struggles that have been as a result of the world being gripped by the Covid pandemic over the past two years. It’s been an incredibly tough time for many, and yet people are still here, fighting, pushing on and “rising from the ashes” despite all of the challenges. Birch was also drawn to the dark African myth of the impundulu (lightening bird), a vampiric bird that has the ability to manifest itself as lightening and even as human figures – it too is imbued with that essence of re-birth.
Guided by the unique forms and wood grain of each kind of timber, Birch sculpts functional pieces whose sensuous curves evoke the individual tree’s original essence. His intimate knowledge of the various kinds of timber allow him to anticipate and react accordingly to how the wood usually behaves, because each tree has its own unique set of intricacies. Some are fatty and coarse, while others are more brittle – each has to be approached in a certain way. For example, Eucalyptus is an incredibly hard wood, making the job of sculpting and moulding it that much trickier.
The installation has been arranged in a way that is meant to entice viewers to interact, explore and play with the pieces. They are so much more than just functional art pieces – each is so unique with its own patterning, grain, shape and interesting markings, and it’s fascinating to take a closer look.