CARVED from 500-year-old jarrah, Neil Turner’s work isn’t simply exquisite, it’s a once-living organism, influenced over aeons, long before white settlement.
The exact age of the timber is unknown, he tells the Voice. “[It] could be older than 500 years. It’s from an old logging coupe.”
He cut down to the core of the virtually rotten trunk, digging through years of decay to find solid timber, the rich red-brown black-flecked due to a fungal disease.
“It was a pristine piece for my vase…the flecks give it character,” Turner says.
The “vase” is an elaborately carved tangle of twists and turns representing fire, and is the result of countless hours of intricate carving, and slow, careful polishing to achieve a soft finish to the hard timber.
It’s part of a collection at Linton and Kay Galleries, that includes a coral-inspired bowl, and Rush of Life coffee table, the carved lines representing the fast pace that differs from his life on a farm to a small acreage near Bunbury.
Sheoak timber inspired the coral bowl, while other pieces are timbers sourced from the goldfields, but there are also pieces using American rock maple: “Chosen for its pure white tone, not found in Australian timbers,” Turner says.
Decades on the land, 180km east of Perth, didn’t prepare him for city life: “Farming is a pedestrian mode at best. I found it hard for the first 12 months to get out of slow saunter to slow jog.”
The 57-year-old first tried his hand at wood turning aged 18/19: “Lathe bowls—and they weren’t very good,” he reflects. Moving to Bunbury, he did a couple of workshops, which led to a shift in direction and style: “They were doing different stuff, not turning. I thought, ‘there’s more to this than rolling pins’.”
A two-year stint at the now defunct Dwellingup fine furniture college turned him from artisan to artist—and led to his first exhibition, which was so successful works were sold to the US, where he was invited to a nine-week artists’ residency in Philadelphia.
Coalesce is on at Linton and Kay Galleries, 137 St Georges Terrace, Perth, till March 31, Mon-Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 11am–4pm.
by JENNY D’ANGER