WORK IN WOOD, 2020-23©

Portraits in wood

The following sculptures are my impressions of some of my neighbours and fellow Croats: men and women that I see and socialise with when in Croatia. Admittedly in this case, I was inspired by the naive, sometimes called innocent art created during long winters by local artists that were real farmers and custodians of these lands. Seldom educated in visual arts, but with an extremely keen eye, a sense of form and a gift for story telling. My thanks would have to go to the likes of Ivan Generalić, Ivan Lacković-Croata, Mijo Kovačić, etc., often connected to the naive movement emanating from the area around the town of Hlebine in North East Croatia.
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Goga: portrait inspired by our good friend and neighbour Gordana Fijan. Artist in her own right, she raises goats, chickens, horses, has two dogs, two cats and a huge vegetable garden.
Materials: Walnut, wood paint, stone pebbles, nails, shirt buttons, tinder fungus (fomes fomentarius) and roofing tar.
Size: 48 cm heigh.
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Croatian Youth: loosely based on my cousin’s kids that look and act like any other young person from Australia to Zimbabwe. Proud, brash and sometimes rude, but deep down just young and full of beans.
Materials: Walnut, wood paint, stone pebbles, nails, shirt buttons and roofing tar.
Size: 43 cm heigh.
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John Wayne: impression of another neighbour – a fix-it guy we all call after his cowboy hero. A man of many trades but…He did quit smoking some time ago, but I gave him a cigarette anyway. It was only right. John Wayne, after all always had one in his teeth.
Materials: Walnut, wood paint, stone pebbles, nails, shirt buttons, kernels of corn and roofing tar.
Size: 36 cm heigh.

Vine Sculptures

The tendril vines of Atlantic Ivy, also known as Irish Ivy (Hedera helix hibernica) that grow from around the roots of my oaks and relentlessly wind around them, are source of material for my Vine Sculptures. As a host the oaks seemingly do not object to this invasion, relentless as it is. But I do…and that is how I started to appreciate this evergreen invasive weed as a source of “free” material for my new work. When cut at the base of the tree some vines are up to 6 to 8 centimetres in diameter and 7 to 8 metres in height covered with aerial rootlets that resemble rough fur by which means the vines cling to the substrate – in this case rough bark of the oaks. It takes a few summer months after they are cut for the vines to begin to dry and slowly release their unforgiving grip on the tree. At this point I climb the tree to start gently freeing the oaks from them, while preserving the curly shapes the vines take on. Thus begins the process of preparing the material I need for the finished sculptures. It continues with painstakingly stripping all the bark that eventually reveals tenacious woody branches and the beginning of the final assembly.
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Kissing Dragons
Materials: Irish Ivy vines taken from around oak trees, dried, stripped of bark, assembled and glued into shapes and finished with a coat of roofing tar.
Size: 180 cm X 80cm.
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Detail: Kissing Dragons
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Materials: Irish Ivy vines taken from around oak trees, dried, stripped of bark and assembled with wire and wood glue into shapes.
Size: 180cm X 110cm.
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Detail: Dancer
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Materials: Irish Ivy vines, roofing tar, red, gold & white paint.
Size: 100 cm wide.
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Detail: Woodpecker

Sculptures using found objects

Since I spend part of my time in my studio in the wine growing region North West of Zagreb, I see and meet local farmers and wine growers who’s families have been there literally for centuries. The land itself has not changed that much but gone are the days, even a generation ago of using quaint home made farming implements or team of horses or oxen. More often then not one can see modern tractors the likes of Lamborghinis with a myriad of attachments making their way to and from the vineyards that dot almost every hill in the district. Old wooden pitchforks, rakes, wine barrels, wooden tubs, old rusty sieves, earthenware pitchers, traditional kitchen implements and home made wooden ladders are more often then not discarded or worse…burned in huge Spring bonfires along with the trimmed vines. And that is where I come in. If I get my timing right, I am able to rescue these wonderful objects that I take back to my studio where they eventually become part of my work.
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Flowers for the President
Materials: Branches of Acacia, found clay vessel, roofing tar with a Travertine base that was once a part of a fireplace.
Size: 100 cm high.
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Materials: Dried out pumpkin, rushes, Irish Ivy vines and red oil paint.
Size: 100 cm wide.
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Portrait of Mrs. Klenka
Materials: Circa 1910 photograph of my wife’s grandmother, carved wooden basin, old flour sieve & synthetic rubber left over from the production of tractor tyres.
Size: 100 cm X 34 cm.
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Detail: Portrait of Mrs. Klenka
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Uskok Warriors
Portrait of my distant relatives from whom I descend, the fearsome pirates from the coastal city of Senj that in the 16th. century settled in the mountains of Žumberak, Croatia.

Materials: Wooden ladder, cow horn, scythe, wooden pitchfork, hoe, rake, leather glove, hemp twine, rush broom, burlap sack, wool carder, woven fabric, rosary & vine branches.
Size: 200 cm X 80 cm X 40 cm
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Turkish Acrobat
: Forged fire tongs, seashell, wire, zip-ties, wooden skewer, gold & red paint.
Size: 40 cm X 40 cm
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Portrait of Zuzu B
: B&W Photograph & a flour sieve
Size: 20 cm in diametre
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: Wooden spinning wheel, broken roof tiles, pebble, forged nails & gold paint.
Size: 30 cm X 44 cm
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Saint Nicholas; after an icon
: Wooden vegetable grater, pebble, cardboard, wire, wooden peg, metal disk & gold paint.
Size: 30 cm X 45 cm