StartPoint Prize 2015

Ruben Birrell

If a young artist is tied down by the weight of tradition at the beginning of his career, the result is often ponderous and dull. However, Ruben Birrell offers an exciting amalgam of the past and the present. The physical presence of sculptures, which are monumental and even oppressive, especially when in a group, in his case is very important. On the other hand, there is the joy of colourful effective materials. Ruben, like an ancient sculptor, sculpts from a block a form hidden within. However, the block is of green and beige insulating foam. The materials intertwine, just like abstract (an)organic morphology does. Various techniques applied in the processing are visible only after a very close look, which provide the monuments with an intimate dimension. Birrell is inspired by archaic cultures, but he induces substantially richer visual associations, be it relief decoration in modernist concrete architecture, symbolist figurative compositions or spiritually tuned Informel. Intertwining of timelines and the connection of a mystery with an emphasis on the materiality of sculptures is close to the futuristic jazz of Kamasi Washington. (rv)