In the main gallery, Ion Birch introduces a new series of graphite works on paper that explore memory, fantasy and sexual awakening, perusing this territory in exaggerated and loving detail. His drawings further investigate the gravitas of figurative art as a way to elicit discussions about sexual taboos and the fragile boundaries within which they exist.
Generally modest in scale, Birch’s carefully rendered graphite drawings have an effeminate old-world softness. Enraptured men and women housed in both Victorian and contemporary settings are depicted in perpetual stages of anticipation, expulsion and debauchery. The protagonist/antagonist in each piece is a thinly disguised version of the artist, appearing as the focus of the narrative, or featured in the periphery. Through this indirect form of self-portraiture, Birch offers us works that are journeys of self-discovery, taking particular interest in the awkwardly inaccurate ways one sees oneself.
Birch’s works delve into the Fin de Siècle notions of utopian optimism. By allowing genitalia and unbridled acts of hedonism to populate his pictures, the artist strives to demystify that which is typically puritan and suppressed. The Freudian subconscious inevitably peppers his scenes; his ethereal human tableaus manifest in fleeting moments within the mind and once put on paper act as a device to negotiate the artist’s innermost thoughts. By this method Birch deconstructs our preconceptions of sexuality framed as they are in high artistic form.