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Nathan Birch

Born 1978, Lansing, Michigan

At an early age, Birch moved to Edmonton, Alberta and received his BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary. He pursues his artistic goals by painting landscapes of the places he has lived: the Alberta prairies, the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast of British Columbia. Birch presently lives in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, where he paints landscapes in a multi-panel format in order to "create a balanced tug-of-war between the truth of the paintings as objects on the wall and the lie of the paintings as windows through the wall."

Artist Statement

There's something inherently pointless, if not altogether dishonest, about deliberately covering a surface with paint in order to pass it off as being the actual thing, or scene it represents. Futility is a word which I think appropriately describes the act of painting representationally. Landscape paintings are not, in fact, windows to the outside world, however much we are lead to believe so. They are illusions- practical jokes played on the eyes and the brain aimed at fooling you into thinking you are somewhere you are not. Even great landscape paintings do this; especially great landscape paintings. This leads to why I choose to split my scenes onto two canvases. Not because I wish to be innocent of pulling this prank- on the contrary, I take a great deal of satisfaction from my involvement in it and from having it pulled on me. But I do wish to emphasize the viewer's role as being the target of this joke.

My paintings are produced in a diptych format in order to create what I believe to be an equally balanced tug-of-war between the painting as window and the painting as object. The space between the canvases, the blind spot as it were, serves to remind the viewer of this fact by allowing the bare wall to divide the illusion, to cut it in half. It is an obstacle to be overcome if the prank is to be carried out flawlessly- if the viewer is to enter in to the scene. I vary the size, shape and depth of each canvas while wrapping the image around the edges in order again to emphasize the objectivity of the painting on the wall, all the while the painted image seeks to convince (or to fool?) the viewer otherwise.

Comparative or Relational are two other words which apply to my work. I want to take advantage of the opportunities provided by using more than one canvas for each painting: for each to be unique when compared to the pair or group to which it belongs, to contribute something distinctive, and this often means each individual piece of the greater painting will not work or make complete sense on its own. Each half should be dependent on the other in order for the whole to be coherent. It provides instances where the relationships between canvases play an important role in the overall painting, where one can be like a character foil for the other, where the differences between are either dramatic or subtle. They can compositionally or subjectively mirror or mimic each other.

I want my paintings to be a new interpretation of a deeply ingrained (and still vital) aspect of Canadian culture, and to do so in such a way as to be valid in a contemporary context.

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