Apart from a few artists working mainly with circular or chain saws (I do draw the line somewhere!), carving does not seem to be a very popular medium with today’s sculptors.
One artist I do know who works in wood is Geoff Rushton, so I went to visit him to learn about his work and the techniques he uses.
Geoff carves very delicate and intricate forms referencing forms found in nature, frequently those of seeds, spores and structures found in microscopic images. Whilst he has an idea in mind when he sets out to carve, it is developed as he carves and doesn’t come from a prepared sketch or maquette, not that you could make a maquette of such detailed forms!
Most of his sculptures are carved from hawthorn taken from the farm on which he lives, they are roughly cut into shape, then worked on with a power carver. I doubt many of his pieces could be produced using traditional tools as the power carver allows him to cut the wood to leave only tiny strands of wood to make up the structure.
It also allows him to create seemingly impossible shapes such as this one
A particular favourite piece of mine (which is why it lives in a display case in my lounge!) is ‘Mycogen’ (2013)
I asked Geoff about the inspiration for this piece:
Mycogen had 3 main influences, firstly wolf’s milk slime mould.
The second, which is where the name comes from, was from an Isaac Asimov novel, ‘Prelude to Foundation’, which I was reading at the time. In the book there’s a planet with a humungous population living on top of each other and mycogen is the food creating section of the planet, all the food is fungus based, hence the name.
I think the shape of the outer shell of walnuts was also an influence, there may be others, it’s hard to say because of the unplanned way I work but they were certainly the major ones.
These influences are clear in his work but the piece obviously just comes together as he works on it – something I can associate with!
Geoff’s blog details the stages in making his ‘Three Kings’ (2013) sculpture which is very interesting and will probably form the basis of the way I will work on a piece (although a much smaller one!).
Images by kind permission of Geoff Rushton.