Former farmer turned wood worker and sculptor, Neil Turner, brings his past experience with the land to life in an exhibit at the Linton & Kay Gallery. Coalesce represents decades of skill and his intricate works often explore the elements that can so crucially effect this country.
“When I was farming you always seem to battle the elements,” Turner says. “Fire was a constant risk during harvest, and you would either have too much or too little rain. Someone once said to me ‘to be a good farmer you always have to grizzle a lot’. I guess I had enough of negativity, I wanted to do something where at least I had a little control. If I made something at least it was going to stay like that. In farming that wasn’t necessarily the case. It would be nice to make something that would stay made.”
“I’ve had an interest in woodwork since I was 18-19, I guess. I started working on a wood lathe, and I made two or three wood lathes myself and started turning wood. I did some workshops in the early ’90s and that opened my eyes to the fact that there was more to wood turning than making salt and pepper shakers. They were carving, colouring, and embellishing carved items, and I thought ‘wow’. Over time I developed my own style and my own skills. I decided in 2010 to sell the farm and move to Stratham (which is sort of near Bunbury), and I did a fine furniture workshop in Dwellingup. I was interested to see how my ideas would translate into furniture. It is art furniture, all one off pieces.”
Even though he finds the precision required in furniture making more challenging than free form sculpture, diversifying has been key to Turner’s work. “If I was going to survive in a market then I need to be seen to be able to do more than just one thing. So I need to be able to make some furniture that is different. I need to be able to do some sculpture that is different. I still enjoy turning and carving. Hopefully I have more than one thing I am good at. It’s more about developing more skills.”
Using mostly Western Australian timbers, such as Jarrah, Sheoak, and some Goldfields timber (as well as American Rock Maple to provide a light colour not found in the local timbers), Turner has created an exhibition of varied work. “I always enjoy fire, so some of the pieces. I have explored fire and fire forms (using intricate carving and negative space to create the illusion of flames). I certainly enjoy things from the beach. So we have some coral textures and forms that wash up on the beach around here. So they have been incorporated into some pieces I have done. Trees, bark pieces, textures etc – not one thing all the time. Coalesce is the bringing together of all ideas. So there certainly is a wide arrangement of pieces there from furniture, to turned and covered pieces, to sculptures. All the pieces have a meaning to me. They all relate to an experience or inspiration that I’ve had.”