26 March 2018
Southern Guild presents Bifurcation, a solo show of functional wooden
sculpture by Adam Birch
Southern Guild is pleased to announce the opening of Bifurcation by Adam Birch, running
from 25 April until 12 July at GUILD in the Silo District of the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
This is the first solo exhibition for the artist, whose functional timber sculptures have
become highly sought after at international design fairs and auctions.
Adam grew up on a large farm in the Cape Winelands, where his love of trees began as a
child, playing in the forests. He completed a Fine Art degree in 2000, majoring in Applied
Graphics, but always dreamed of becoming a full-time sculptor. Shortly thereafter he
became a tree surgeon, and began to work in his spare time with pieces from the dead trees
he was cutting down, transforming them into innovative sculpted furniture. A passionate
environmentalist, Adam cuts down only alien tree species and uses indigenous wood from
trees that have already fallen.
The pieces in Bifurcation have all been carved from the part of the tree that carpenters
usually discard: the fork. At this junction – where the trunk bifurcates into two branches –
the wood grain becomes twisted and dense, making it difficult to cut. But in the anatomy of
a tree the fork is a key point determining its stability.
“I like working with the fork because of what happens to the grain. It goes from being one
series of concentric circles to two. The grain does crazy things at this juncture – all sorts of
swirls and whorls,” Adam says. “Timber is such an incredible material. Plastic or steel
wouldn’t be able to withstand the force of what happens to a tree in wind or a storm.”
Once a tree is felled, Adam takes a trunk-to-twig approach to utilising the timber, cutting it
into planks, floor boards, structural beams and firewood, with only the fork remaining. After
leaving them to dry (some for as long as five years), he carves into them with a chainsaw – a
somewhat unconventional sculpting tool that requires a lot of control – before refining
them with hand tools.
His fascination and experience with timber as a medium is multi-faceted. “No two pieces of
wood ever share exactly the same colour, form or texture.” This is directly reflected in the
patterns formed by the grain and exaggerated by his design. The natural shape of each piece
informs the sculptural approach, and although the end result is refined and sophisticated,
the essence of the individual tree is still present.
Bifurcation by Adam Birch runs from 25 April to 12 July 2018.