Seth Birchall’s “Man Crush II” at the Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney – comprises a suite of portraits that pay homage to romantic notions of the male painter throughout art history.
The likeness of deceased figures such as Sidney Nolan, Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin, has been represented through a systematic process of ‘doubling’. These are some of the many painters who, at some point in Birchall’s life have not only influenced the work, but whose biographies have also resonated with him. Like many a celebrity infatuation, these artistic crushes were viewed from the tyranny of mortality, remaining unattainable and sometimes fleeting.
The doubled portraits in Man Crush II are made simultaneously, where each intuitive mark made in the first (left hand side) panel, is reproduced as faithfully and as deliberately as possible in the second (right hand side) panel. Through this process of reproduction the first image becomes the prototype for the second image, where mistakes and wrong turns are copied intentionally. This duplication of the first portrait undermines its importance and significance as an original; what can be done once intuitively on the left painting, can be done again systematically on the right.
Rather than seeking a perfect duplication, Birchall is as equally interested in these subtle shifts of difference between the two portraits. Both original and copy become two halves of a single image but presented in a diptych format. This self-imposed methodology arose from a questioning about the painting process itself: what distinguishes a successful attempt to a failed attempt.
In this way, the series deals directly with the notion of failure and a desire to engage directly with a mistake, to turn it into part of the overall process. This negotiation between systematic and intuitive application has become a means to engage with the historical weight of past painters, to be liberated from the decision-making and self-criticism inherent to the processes of painting.
About Seth Birchall
Seth Birchall was born in Englewood, New Jersey in 1979, and was then whisked across the border into Nyack, New York, but eventually found his way to Sydney in late 1987.
Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting) from the National Art School in 2002
Master of Art from the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW in 2011.
Birchall held his first solo exhibition Megadogaus in 2006 at the Esa Jaske Gallery in Sydney.
As well as participating in a number of group exhibitions, awards and prizes, he held his second solo show Man Crush at the First draft Gallery, Sydney in late 2011.
Seth Birchall lives and works in Sydney, Australia.