Sucked Into My Vortex refers to a phenomenon that happens when interacting with someone: when the energy spent observing them transforms into a palpable force of influence onto you.
Sucked Into My Vortex features surrealist portraits of the subjects and the bonds between them. Exploring how the entanglement of close relationships can cause us to morph into one another, Birns visualises the intimacies that have us take on similar behaviours, idiosyncrasies, and appearances. The works begin to evoke the fluctuating identities we experience during our lives.
In the larger works, Birns was inspired by the aesthetics of French Romantic painter Frédéric Soulacroix. Active during the 1870s, Soulacroix aimed to revive the elegance and luxury of the past by creating idealised pictures from the turn of the 18th century, when leisure and romance were at the forefront of everyday life. Birns draws on this romanticism and infuses intimacy between her protagonists by surrounding them with luscious silks, pastels, and velvets. This evocative style, along with her signature distorted faces is juxtaposed by the use of daily, modern textiles of cotton, denim, and synthetic fabric.
Expanding on her oil pastel portraits and paintings, the exhibition also features Birns’s first experimentations with ceramics, a medium used in the artist’s visual language to express mythological influences. In specific, Birns’s ceramics can be understood in relation to the Hebrew myth of Golem, a creature formed out of dust and earth, brought to life by ritual incantations and sequences of Hebrew characters. The process through which Golem comes to take shape evokes inspiration and certain similarities to Birns’s ceramics works – to mould clay is in many ways, to mould a consciousness and bring it to life. Birns imbues clay and glass with this very consciousness, at once still retaining the same vitality and textural qualities of the sequences of colours found in her pastel drawings and oil paintings.
Birns’s works speak to the often unspoken aspects of human nature: the fluidity of emotions, the tangibility yet arbitrariness of human relationships, the desires to capture a person’s character. The morphing forms of her works come to embody a voice. This voice speaks from the crevices, the spaces in between, from the centre of someone’s vortex.
Thu Tran, 2023