If you think reclaimed wood only has a chance at second life, either as furniture or floorboards, think again. More and more creatives are coming up with fresh and exciting way to reuse unwanted offcuts. Negating the need for canvas or clay, these artists prefer working with scrap wood, sourced anywhere from broken skateboards to discarded doors. Scroll down to discover why contemporary wood sculpture knows no bounds.
London-based Scottish artist Lee Borthwick admits she has built a reputation as ‘a bit of a log lady’. This is because she has become renowned for creating stunning sculptures from bits of scrap wood, which she combines with other materials such as laser cut mirror pieces.
With an education in Textiles and Surface Design, as well as an MA from the Royal College of Art, she says her ethos as an artist changed after spending time in Finland. She was greatly inspired by the abundant nature, values and simple approaches to life as well the light and architecture. Pictured above are examples of her signature ‘Mirror Tapestries’.
Above is a work from Lee’s ‘In the Attic’ series, a ten piece collection commissioned for the Great Peter Street Offices in Westminster. She says,
The space offered wonderful views of the surrounding roof tops and street below, so I designed a collection to reflect on the local architecture. I wanted also to incorporate a strong organic element to breathe life into a very urban and stark office space.
Aaron S Moran
Aaron S Moran is an artist based in Fraser Valley, British Columbia. He describes his work as ‘reactivating’ discarded materials and deserted spaces, whilst having a nostalgic quality.
Remember those awesome neon jackets we were all wearing in the early ’90s? Above and below are works from a 2016 collection called ‘Windbreakers’, made of reclaimed wood, acrylic, house paint and red cedar. Here, Aaron evokes childhood memories by referencing colours and patterns from 90s fashion.
Ron van der Ende
The work of Ron van der Ende is exceptional not only for its awesome play of perspective but because all his bas-relief sculptures are made entirely from salvaged materials. The Dutch artist doesn’t just paint with the materials, he will use one type of material to convey another such as recycled wood to depict rusting metal. He’s also able to capture every reflection on an object, even the shards of a sparkling diamond, in waste wood.
‘Town Bus’ (2007)
‘DS II – Pallas’ (2008)
Haroshi is a self-taught sculptor and passionate skateboarder, often faced with the problem of skateboards breaking. Haroshi makes use of the snapped decks, by turning them into incredible sculpture.
Wood pieces are put together in mosaic form or stacked in layers. As well as Haroshi’s familiarity with the skateboard construction, he has learned through knowledge, experience and perseverance, exactly which skateboard models fit together when stacked.
90% of Buddha sculptures in Japan are traditionally made using a wood mosaic method, in order to make them lightweight. They would also typically contain a crystal ball called Shin-Gachi-Rin (Heart Moon Circle) in place of the Buddha’s heart. Honouring this tradition, buried deep inside each of Haroshi’s sculptures, is a broken skateboard part.
‘The City Series’ is a collection of wood sculptures made entirely from scrap wood by Pennsylvania artist James McNabb. Each piece of wood is intuitively cut, something he describes as fast-paced ‘sketching with a band saw’. Together the pieces form a dense metropolis, highlighting issues around the effects of urban sprawl on nature. Pictured above is ‘City Wheel’ made from assorted wood species.
It was two books, The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer and The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins, that made award-winning American artist Victoria Wagner recognise a personal reverence for the trees being downed in the forests surrounding her studio. This is also what first inspired her to make her painted reclaimed wood sculptures called ‘Woodrocks’.
Salvaging chunks of wood, the small jewel-like sculptures are cut to reveal growth-rings, which are then preserved and embossed with gradient spectrums. She says of her work,
My eye generally and naturally tends toward tessellation and pattern, seeking a rhythm that mimics regular pulse. On the one hand, visual order provides a place for the senses to rest, while colour relationships create problems for the brain to solve. I like this simultaneity.
Mark McClure is a London-based artist who uses found materials to create what he describes as ‘sensory and physical snapshots of the urban landscapes we have shaped and built up around us’. Using painted waste wood as his medium, he creates sculptures that have have a dynamic, modern and graphic feel.
Below is a detail of his work entitled ‘Uphoarding’, a series of 10 mosaics that combine to form one 210m long work of art at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Hackney Wick. The work is made from reclaimed wood, salvaged from the park and surrounding area. McClure also creates one off assemblages using found ephemera, as well as bespoke commissions.