Macquarie University Art Gallery, ENIGMAS: BIRCH/GAWRONSKI | Head On Photo Festival

Macquarie University Art Gallery, ENIGMAS: BIRCH/GAWRONSKI


Stephen Birch, Alex Gawronski

Festival Year :


Exhibition Description

Stephen Birch’s (1961-2007) installations beguile, amuse and then interrupt the viewer’s sense of controlled calm by awakening a fearful foreboding. The power of the artist’s ability to evoke tense states of mind, even panic, after initially suggesting a pleasant temperament of observation, lingers long after viewing. Questions of self, culture and society are advanced, but left unanswered – or possibly the riddles to solutions are actually present, but individually different, depending on the viewer and the depth of fear ignited. Dismembered human forms and super heroes, artificial debris, books created as if out of stone and video talking heads, engulf the viewer into a surreal world that actually captures the everyday.

Five years after the artist’s untimely death, renowned installation artist Alex Gawronski, close friend and colleague of Birch, has been asked to respond to the questions left behind. Gawronski’s new work will be juxtapositioned against a selection of Birch’s that are part of the Macquarie University collection. The result is Enigmas.

Curated by Leonard Janiszewski

Image No Man's Land  

Stephen Birch(1961-2007)

No Man's Land, 2006

Video installation

Macquarie University Art Collection

Courtesy of Andrew Birch

Exhibition Space

Dates and Times

09 May 2012 to 22 June 2012

Open Hours

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  • THEN: 4 M O N T H S O L D ( 2 0 1 2 )
    NOW: 5 Y E A R S O L D ( 2 0 1 8 )

    “Back then Kenneth was being treated in Coffs
    Harbour. He had a heart condition and doctors
    were coming from Sydney to treat him. Three
    weeks later it was decided he would need
    surgery and so Kenneth and I travelled to
    Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.
    It was a very hard time and looking at the
    photo it reminds me how difficult it was
    to see my child like that. I really relied on
    friends and family at the time as my mum
    was also undergoing treatment for breast
    cancer – her surgery was booked for the
    same day as Kenneth’s.

    He needed to be in the Intensive Care
    Unit (ICU) before and after the operation.
    Throughout all of this Kenneth was a
    curious and inquisitive baby. I remember
    he would always whinge when he couldn’t
    see what was going on, so the nurses in ICU
    always made sure his bed was raised up.
    When looking at the photo with all the
    tubes, monitors, and so many doctors for
    that one tiny baby, I can’t believe we were
    in Sydney for just two weeks and then ready
    to go home.

    Since then he’s had check-ups along the
    way, but after his five-year appointment,
    doctors advised there was no need for
    further treatment. He’s been so well since
    that I can’t even remember the name of
    the condition or the surgery! The only sign
    it ever even happened is Kenneth’s big
    scar. As he was so young at the time, he
    has no memory of the whole ordeal, but
    he knows he has his scar. When people
    ask he doesn’t really know where it came
    from, he just knows he has the same scar
    as his uncle.

    Kenneth is now this happy-go-lucky kid who
    loves his dad’s trucks. Life has been pretty
    cruisey with Kenneth starting school and
    just making friends with everyone. He has
    also recently been made sandpit monitor
    which he takes very seriously.

    It has been a very eye-opening journey and
    we would love to thank all the wonderful
    doctors, surgeons and nurses for all their
    amazing work.”

    K A R I N A
    K E N N E T H ’S  M U M


    Then and Now