Friday, 30 September 2011

Carved with a 99e Stanley Knife


Image above: A fishing lure carved with a 99e Stanley knife

There was an art teacher at the school I attended as a child, I never knew who she taught or when, she was as all art teachers should be a little vague. The vagueness was also touched with a peculiar random quality. I once came across her lifting a giant abstract canvas through the vestibule at the front of the building, a place seldom visited by anyone as it opened onto a main road. Then one afternoon at a park near a friend’s house she was setting up an old bellows type camera on a giant tripod as we cycled past.

We arrived for our own art lesson one afternoon to find a roughly hewn shape of a dear or antelope clamped to one of the tables, it was hers. Every cut left by the chisel or knife was still visible and raw giving the figure a sense of animation as if the weight of its body was swinging under motion. It stayed in the art room for a week or two in this state and then she came back to it and smoothed out the cuts until the rounded flanks of an antelope emerged. It was perfect but perfect in a way that Tupperware is; the life had gone out of the piece and the sculpture was lost to bric-a-brac.

I am conscious of that antelope when making lures. Part of me wants to set up a jig for the router and turn out precision machined pieces and then there is the whittler in me that needs to feel the magic of form in the formless. So I sat down last night with a pencil, a template, cabinet scraper, piece of old pine bed and a Stanley 99e utility knife. It’s not perfect.

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