When they first started making art they worked in very different media – John Williams specialised in printing three dimensional photographic imagery while Rob Lansman was known for his oil paintings of cattle in Normandy.
Today, however, the Suffolk-based artists both work with wood and, although their use of the natural material takes them in diverse directions, they complement each other beautifully.
“What brings us together is that we both use wood to express the human figure: we find the material lends itself well to becoming a body or a face and decided to exhibit together to show what can be done with it,” Rob explains.
All About Wood runs from Saturday 19 March until Thursday 24 March at the Edmund Gallery, Bury St Edmunds. The exhibition will feature around 30 pieces, with John’s sculptures displayed alongside Rob’s woodcuts and the resulting prints.
John first started exploring wood sculpture about two years ago after deciding he wanted to try a more physical art form. Old wood from his garden seemed the ideal material to start with and now he only works with pieces which are locally sourced or “gifted.”
“I know exactly where all my material comes from,” he explains. “Much has been donated by my neighbours, while other pieces are locally found and naturally weathered.”
John, who has been listed in the past four volumes of Who’s Who in Art, and signs his sculptures 3Djon, says this gives his work a unique provenance, with the recycled wood donors detailed for each piece. Inspiration comes from his long-term interest in Egyptian, Greek and Mexican sculpture and his love of the human form.
“As with my photographic work, my subjects have always been people, especially full length portraits where I am able to fully explore both their body language and their psychology.”
Rob moved to Bury St Edmunds from the Netherlands in 1997 and began to focus seriously on his artwork when he retired 10 years ago. To date he has exhibited in France, Cambridgeshire and the Edmund Gallery.
“My first contact with wood was by using plywood as a ‘canvas’ for my oil paintings of cattle. Its simple, ‘barn-like’ quality lends itself very well to the subject.
“Later I started cutting directly into the wood itself, making printed images of the results,” he explains.
“Faces are often my first inspiration, not with the aim of producing a likeness but of finding a configuration of almost abstract marks. I add colour either directly on to the block or by cutting separate tone blocks. The original block is then superimposed over the tone blocks.”
Both men relish the challenge of working with wood and the process of experimentation that goes along with it.
“It has to do with the resistance of the wood and the way you cut and move through it – it is more difficult than clay to work with but can be very rewarding,” John says.
And Rob adds: “A bonus for me is that the block becomes a piece of art in itself. After a while it achieves a beautiful weathered patina, giving it an almost three-dimensional quality. That’s one
of the reasons that our work goes so well together.”
All About Wood runs from Saturday 19 March until Thursday 24 March at the Edmund Gallery, Bury St Edmunds.
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