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Self portrait

During landscaping work at Ashton Court, on the edge of Bristol, some much-loved large conifers were controversially cut down. A few sections of the trunks were left lying on the edge of the field below to rot, which seemed a terrible waste.

With permission from the estate management team, I went over with two friends and we milled the discarded Lawson Cypress timber on site. It ended up being used to make several sculptures.

​I’d also wanted to try making a self portrait for a while and, in 2013, that happened. Carving is a slow process and it seems to me that one of the most difficult things to portray well is emotion. Portraits are also difficult – getting a carving to look like someone isn’t easy, especially when that person is the carver. How do you choose to portray yourself at any particular time? It was going to be an exciting challenge.

a woodcarving  of a mans head in progress

​In the end, my expression seems mischievous, which was a nice contrast to all the formal, neutral expressions which are often seen on carved portraits. There’s also some comment on the nature of portraiture – the distorted perspective of the camera in the reference photos is translated directly into the sculpture, meaning that the face of the carving appears much more prominent than in real life. I like the sense of caricature that this gives the piece. After all, aren’t all portraits caricatures to some extent?