Canadian artist Maskull Lasserre’s “recarved” sculptures are aptly named—Lasserre takes existing clichéd figural wood carvings and “exposes” the skeleton underneath. Of course, the new carving only seems like a reveal of what lies beneath. Part of the success of these works is how inevitable they feel.
Lasserre’s drawings and sculptures explore the unexpected potential of the everyday through allegories of value, expectation, and utility. Elements of nostalgia, accident, humor, and the macabre are incorporated into works that induce strangeness in the familiar, and provoke uncertainty in the expected.
In the style of an anatomy book, the bifurcated sculptures preserve the existing sculpture on one side while exposing the fantasy skeleton on the other. It’s a reverse of the classical artist’s process of learning about anatomy in order to draw more realistic figures. Lasserre is taking fully realized figures and imagining their bones. In an interview with Joseph Kendrick, Lasserre said,
“There is an intrinsic honesty and humility to the carving process. There is no magic, no hidden technology or trick, just the simple subtraction of what was already there. This humble quality makes the amazing alchemy that carving can achieve so much more interesting. … Like the physical materials I use, and the processes I apply, there is something categorical about death/mortality. The aspect of it that I try to coax out is that death is a potent sign of life — albeit an ended one. To carve skeletons into inanimate objects infers their past — and maybe even future — potential for life.” (Source)
Although these sculptures are whimsical, in concept if not execution, there’s an “Alas, poor Yorick!” undertone that’s sobering. Those who are fortunate enough to be healthy and whole rarely think of the inevitable end, the skull beneath the skin. Lasserre’s skilled carving work reveals what was never there, and in doing so makes us think of what eventually will be.
For his latest project, titled the Abyss Table, designer Christopher Duff of Duffy London constructs a detailed cross section of the sea bed from sheets of glass and wood. Inspired by mythology, he designed the piece of furniture to look like one belonging to an ancient deity, capable of pulling up chunks of the earth for his own decorative use. From above, the table resembles a topographical map laid flat, but when viewed from the side, it becomes a multilayered and multidimensional model of a three-dimensional mass forged over millennia.
The brilliance of the Abyss Table lies in part in the conflicting nature of its form and function. By its very definition, the table is not an abyss but the exact opposite: a protruding surface capable of supporting objects. Here, the liquid surface of the ocean is transmuted into an imperturbable solid, and fluid space becomes sturdy and unbroken.
On the website of Duffy London, the preliminary image of the table, which will be released this fall, is accompanied with a line from Friedrich Nietzche’s “Beyond Food and Evil:” “And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” This oft-quoted passage, almost always meant metaphorically, finds a very literal manifestation here. Contained in this table, the dark, unknowable emptiness that consumes the human mind moves poetically into the home, merging its mysteries with the normal routines of domesticity. Each image shown here is a digital model from which the actual table will be built. Take a look. (via Colossal)
Don’t have a green thumb? That’s alright. Japanese artist Yuto Yamasaki hand-carved these wooden flora that look like real potted house plants. To construct this impressive collection, he chiseled away at large logs and formed them into succulents, palms, and bonsais. A coat of paint was applied to the wood afterwards and further extends the illusion. From far away, they might trick you into watering them.
The artist uses wood because it’s easily available to him, and he places a great importance on the physicality of art making as a way of exploring subjectivity. “The issue is not what I make; there is no meaning to be found in my pieces beyond a confirmation of the existence of the artist and his experience of making the work.”
Yamasaki’s attitude is reminiscent of when people describe why they enjoy knitting. The repetitive motion is a calming activity, where your mind can safely wander and while you’re doing something that’s active. “Making art objects with my own hands, void of conscious thought, is a therapeutic and meditative experience,” he says. “The challenge is to put myself in a state where the materials make my hands move automatically.” (Via Spoon + Tamago)
Artist Ron Issacs crafts delicate-looking garments using a not-so-delicate looking material – wood. Starting with Finnish birch plywood, he builds elaborate relief constructions and ends by painting them in a trompe l’oeil fashion. Issacs excels at capturing the subtle details that make these sculptures believable. The shirts, dresses, and flowers look as though they are gently swaying in the wind. He writes about the subjects of his work, writing:
My three primary recurring subjects are vintage clothing (for the way it continues the life of the past into the present, for its rich structures and colors and shapes, and for its anthropomorphic presence as a stand-in for the figure); plant materials in the form of sticks, leaves, and flowers (for too many reasons to list); and found objects. They combine in appropriate or surprising juxtapositions, sometimes purely as a visual “poem” of sorts and (if I’m lucky) sometimes as an image with real psychological resonance. Objects occasionally reappear in other contexts and take on new meanings, like a repertory company of actors playing different roles in different plays.
Issacs goes on to say that he sees his art as a hybrid of painting and sculpture; the three-dimensional construction employs one half of the work while the colorful adornments are the other. In addition, he invites the viewer to come up with their own interpretations of his creations. You can attach a narrative to it and your own “reading,” but to him, these are largely about the act of making and the fascination with making things resemble something that they’re not.
Location is important to Canadian artist Aaron S. Moran. The wood sculptures he creates are both inspired by, and dependent on pieces of wood that he finds in a particular area. From them, he assembles the discarded material into works of art. Using a variety of colors, textures, and patterns, he creates pieces that create a dialogue between place, media, and the viewer.
At times, his sculptures feel like they are going to combust. In his series If You Resist This! and Wash Up (Boundary Bay), wood is unevenly matched in color and size. Pieces are wedged, layered, and placed where they will fit. The non-matching feels almost haphazard, like the piece’s shelf life wasn’t supposed to be very long. This visual tension feels volatile, as if there is something is ticking inside them and about to burst.
At other times, Moran’s sculptures are more docile. They hold an entirely different air and attitude. Here, he uses wood that’s been painted colors of a pretty sunset. Moran has considered placement of colors and arranged the wood in patterns. He titled the series Kite Contest/1991, conjuring up the feelings you’d get from a warm, pleasant day. He writes this about the series, poetically stating, “Sun filtered nostalgia, memories of vibrant kites flying high in the sky along the shore of a beach. Lively patterns from days gone by, blurred by time. Sun bleached photographs of smiling faces. Picnic blankets and pinwheels moving in the warm breeze.”
Moran is currently pursuing his MFA with the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He lives along the Detroit River on the border of Canada and the United States. You can follow his works in progress and inspiration on his Tumblr, Year On A River.
Elisa Strozyk is a unconventional textile designer. Instead of fabric, she uses wood to construct rugs, carpets, and blankets. While we often think of wood as rigid surface, her work breaks this convention and transforms it into something much cozier. Elisa’s textile art acts like fabric. They easily conform to a surface and can bunch together, allowing something or someone to be wrapped up in wood.
Each piece is comprised of tiny shapes, variations of triangles and squares. Paired together they make tessellations, or the tiling of shapes to insure there are no gaps between them. Tessellations can be in 2D or in Elisa’s case, 3D. The general idea is that shapes are used to stack and fill space.
These textiles are meant to have us consider a new perspective on material. They challenge our notions of what is possible out of something like wood. Elisa’s textiles can be functional or art object. They can be used as a blanket or on the floor as a rug. But, depending on the design, context, and manipulation of shapes, they can be a sculpture, too.
Elisa gives more insight to her work, writing:
The world around us is becoming increasingly immaterial. We are now used to write emails instead of letters, to pay online, to download music and touch virtual buttons on touch screens. We live in a society of images, a visual culture full of colours, advertisements, television and the internet. There is not much left to feel. Giving importance to surfaces that are desirable to touch can reconnect us with the material world and enhance the emotional value of an object.
“Wooden Textiles” convey a new tactile experience. We are used to experience wood as a hard material; we know the feeling of walking across wooden floors, to touch a wooden tabletop or to feel the bark of a tree. But we usually don’t experience a wooden surface which can be manipulated by touch.
This giant snaking sculpture is the Funnel Tunnel by artist Patrick Renner. The temporary sculpture was commissioned by Art League Houston and sits on the esplanade across from their building. Renner’s Funnel Tunnel stretches for 180 feet, open as a giant funnel at one end and tapering to a sharp point at the other. The structure was created using steel and reclaimed wood. The ALH explains, “the sculpture reflects the creative people and businesses in the Montrose area, and is the first of its kind in Houston.” [via]
“I started as a furniture-maker, but eventually felt limited by conventional notions about what furniture was supposed to look like and how it should be built. I now approach my work fundamentally as sculpture, but likewise have resisted passing over the line into pure or nonfunctional form.” – Michael Coffey
According to Michael Coffey, design is not just about art. It’s also a form of “problem solving.” He sees commissions as creative collaboration– loving most when patrons desire something entirely new, more different than his previous work.
As far as process is concerned, Coffey begins with a small wooden model, then develops a design on paper with set dimensions. First cuts generally begin with the buzz of a chainsaw, followed by the use of smaller, more refined, cutters and discs. Part of the fun is figuring out which tools will service the work best. Click on the video after the jump to see more of his work and philosophy.