Working in a world turned upside down by a global pandemic, Israel Birch draws upon his creative wellspring to find equilibrium and healing. This body of work is imbued with the kaupapa of Rangimārie: quiet, peacefulness, and harmony (1) and rich with symbols that speak of the enduring connections of people, home, and spirituality.
Birch chooses text that resonates with meaning beyond a simple reading. Wairua seems a short word to encompass the spiritual stream that flows through te ao Māori, enervating every aspect of the world. For the artist, it is also a door that opens to allow exploration of death as a part of life. Rather than viewing death as an endpoint, Birch embraces the notion that it is a transition from one world to another. Physically, those who have gone are not gone at all, but have returned to Tāne and Papatūānuku; spiritually, they walk amongst the stars with their ancestors. (2)
The technique Birch uses in his practice embodies these ideas: beyond the lines of lettering shimmers of light reflect endlessly in dark depths of the artwork. They are seen and unseen, depending on your perspective, but are always present. Additional lines of text that float just below the surface of the artwork have handwritten, organic forms and you have to spend time with them to decipher their meaning. Through Birch’s works, we glimpse the ineffable and more importantly, we sense the ebb and flow of energy essential for all life - physical, emotional, spiritual.
The connections that bind us together with one another, with our ancestors, with the whenua are present in the patterns Birch uses. More than aesthetic elements, the tukutuku-inspired criss-crosses speak of ties that bind and of the tipuna who watch over us from the heavens. The concentric ripples of Kia Hora te Marino suggest a world of many layers which, unbroken and unending, provide the structure for a personal existence that draws upon, and is supported by, the strength of the whole.
Rangimārie is Israel Birch’s creative expression of what he feels is fundamental in order to live a life that is at one with ourselves, and with the world around us. Recognising our place within this world and how we are connected to it is a step towards finding calm and peace within a chaotic environment:
“... te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa”. (3)