Birchall paints light rhythmically, in circular and hypnotic movements towards a point of perspective that sits just aslant. Burnt skies detail the dying of the day with cool shifts to mauves, lemon yellows and zinc whites which transition the dusk to night—all the while the trees frame the view. Where the horizon might be, surreal bodies of water or lush vegetation occlude it; in one case, the canvas has levitated just enough to escape it altogether. These are the soft spaces between day and night, between time and perspective. Where foregrounds and backgrounds might very well exist in different places but, through these portals, float together in one vignette.
Such worlds are as much a form of the artist’s self-portraiture. A process of looking inward. Birchall drifts to dusk in works such as South Coast Beach and River, South Coast, (2022). In surreal colours, personal psychological states shift in tune with the natural surrounds. From South Coast New South Wales to Bali, to times before children, to the pivotal moments of their upbringing: all are colours and forms that coalesce in a pictorial and psychological ideal, a place of beauty, in the way only mind and memory know how.
The work from which the exhibition takes its name, The Garden Is Watered (2022), references Birchall’s own imagined idyll. Set within a verdant tropical back garden, backlit by the fading sun, a garden path is visible which Birchall says might lead to a studio. A reference to Klimt’s famous garden studio in Josefstädter Strasse, Vienna, immortalised in photographs by Moritz Nähr from 1912. In Bali, where Birchall’s partner was born, his own at-home studio was one such simple sanctuary where ‘Once the garden was watered, you could focus on other things’.
This latest series extends the artist’s concern with the capturing of mood, of tone. In portraying the most personal of his memories and imaginings he creates a series of surreal vistas and opens these up to us as if through windows (which he represents in one painting)—and all from an undisclosed interior vantage point. A space shared by both Birchall and us, as we contemplate this new world by way of the inside.