Wood is an interesting material to make art from. Unlike most post-industrial materials like plastic and steel, it has a timeless quality about it that adds a layer of mystery to the piece. Here are three incredible artists who highlighted the various characteristics of this material in their approach to sculpture and installation art.
Artist 1: James Prestini:
1940, Brazilian Purple Heart, Honduras Mahogany
1939 – 42, Black walnut, Cuban mahogany, Mexican mahogany
ca 1940, Cherry and Poplar, source: images.metmuseum.org/CRDImages
Prestini’s minimalist carvings almost look like he has pulled the heart out of each tree he made them from. The polish and organic shaping of each piece gives this group of wood sculptures a surrealistic quality. Each definitive ring of wood looks like the echo of a musical note. Even in these archival photographs; they look so beautiful they are worth discussing.
Artist 2: Henrique Oliveira:
Desnatureza, plywood, 2011, twistedsifter.files.wordpress.com
Ursuliness Prolapse, Internal View, 2012, source: theredlist.com
Untitled Brushstroke, plywood and pigments, 2011, source: yatzer.com
Oliveira’s installation work is bold and unique. His first piece above, Denatureza, reminds me of the tree at the center of Odysseus’s home in the Odyssey. The force with which it twists both downward and upward at the same time has the viewer going round and round, following the track of this re-natured tree trunk structure. It’s amazing how he is able to make such natural looking forms from plywood. It looks like a real tree! His wall structures are a delight to see as well. As an artist, I love his rendition of brushstrokes made out of plywood and pigments. It’s amazing how he used the soft and malleable qualities of wood to effectively express the lush nature of paint spread thickly with a brush.
Artist 3: Paul Baden laminated wooden veneers
Paul Baden’s figural sculptures are just as interesting and dynamic as Oliveira’s installations or Prestini’s carvings. His restructuring of wooden rings from laminated veneers reflects the organic nature of the human body. The active positions of his figures remind the viewer of the muscles and tendons that lay beneath the skin, something also reflected in the pattern of rings in the wood.
Viewing the different ways in which these artists express themselves, I find myself reminded how important the choice of material is to the emotional and symbolic nature of a piece. We owe it to ourselves and our viewers to take the time to make this important decision.