David’s artistic ways with wood

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WOOD artist David Mac Laren was having it three ways when he decided to title his newest exhibition “Design Innovation Play”.

For the show, billed as his first solo exhibition, is the result of a collaboration with expert wood-turner Jim Homann and precision driller Jamie Prior, who assisted him in exploring his radical ideas.

Central to these ideas is the increasing scarcity and preciousness of wood itself.

Mac Laren has made use of salvaged west African ebony and, heavily influenced by the late George Ingham, has challenged current perceptions, using solid timber rather than the veneer that he believes is more costly in terms of energy use and carbon emissions.

A beautifully asymmetrical table, “Partial Ellipse”, in jarrah and burl, illustrates his rejection of veneer.

With a career spanning 40 years, Mac Laren came to Australia from New York many years ago and, in 1994, created the hugely successful Bungendore Wood Works Gallery as a centre where wood becomes art.

While some of the artworks in this exhibition illustrate principles of innovation, notably the “Marble Towers” invented by artist Anton Meerman, in which solid pieces of wood are machined and cut open to reveal the interior of the wood, for the larger part, Mac Laren has occupied himself in “play”.

Several mischievous pieces toy with the idea that tables have “shoes” – one table has stiletto heels. What would Queen Victoria have thought?

Elsewhere, he plays with the theme of chairs and seating, the stock-in-trade of any wood artist.

One of his more impossible creations, the swan-like “Leda Chair”, was his contribution to an international forum on woodworking culture in Sweden during 2008.

Another has jarrah bobbles, like those on a jester’s hat. You wouldn’t want to try sitting on any of them.

David Mac Laren believes he has now reached the stage where he doesn’t need to make his art to a deadline. With an estimated 10 years of his working life ahead of him, he says: “I may as well just go with it”.

“Design Innovation Play”, Octagon Art Space, Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, until November 21.

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Helen Musa
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