Passing the semicircular archway with the inscription „Night has fallen and I‘m blind and wake“, we enter Shady Garden: Immanuel Birkert‘s narrative of a shadowed garden that seems to be in a dodgy state.
The delicate paintings Shady Garden (10a) and Shady Garden (10b) stylise design-like arrangements and perspective tilts of gardens of a bygone era. Recurring ornamental areas of lush greenery meander within a wall-lined, enclosed compound; the laid-out cloisters lead to water features in which shadowy figures appear. The rondell-like areas are the central centrepiece, an axis of life where possible turnings are taken. Shady Garden (7) Central Park and Shady Garden (9) Rosengarten Schloss Heidegg are made of wood and take up these same forms. Their edges are provided with conical spines or geometric grids, thus forming a protective frame inside which something is nurtured for a long time until it gradually blos- soms. The idea of a hortus conclusus („closed garden“) manifests itself, an image motif that plays a role especially in the symbolism of Mary and symbolises a secret place of longing and retreat.
Immanuel Birkert‘s formal language of the works in Shady Garden is largely inspired by the „Hortus Palatinus“ (Palatine Garden) by the engineer and garden architect Salomon de Caus (1576-1626), who dedicated himself to designing the princely gardens of Heidelberg Castle and almost transformed them into the „eighth wonder of the world“ of the late Renaissance. The garden architecture follows a strict geometrical and symmetrical concept; diverse tree and plant species thrive on nested terraces, they are peppered with water basins in which stone river gods bathe. The Renaissance garden is symbolic of the „third nature“; the purely natural, untouched state is denied to it; instead, cultivation and artistic creation are in the foreground. This humanistic tradition of thought could not be more clearly opposed to our own today, in which the study of our earthly environment sees nature as a realm of interwoven relationships, in which everything is organically interwoven with everything else. In his execution of the Shady Garden, Birkert contrasts this cosmic order with organically flowing and grotesque ornaments.
The spiritual power of the garden, its symbol of earthly, fertile and juvenile life, is also reflected in
the ceramic sculptures Shady Garden, which resemble a plant made human or extraterrestrial beings. Sculpted from leftover clay, the hybrid bodies are never depicted in their entirety; they are studded with cone-like buds, one outgrowing an extended bodily function, the other even living plants. Despite their static ponderation and the rigid materiality of the clay, a certain animation is inherent in the sculptures, as if a fertile, active organism were seething within them. Birkert‘s sculptural works are based on the con- cept that dimensions physically tangible with the hands go hand in hand with what can be mentally grasped.
The enigmatic situation in Shady Garden evokes promising and emotional moments of adolescent existence, marked by the twilight of nights lived through and questionable morality. The garden as a place of perverse, spiritual aberrations.
– Sophia Yvette Scherer