Artist Dermot O’Brien combines wood with light for a dynamic new twist on sculpture. ABI caught up with him for an interview about his fascinating work.
Your wood sculptures incorporate the component of light, which gives an amazing effect. How did you develop this idea?
I started woodworking as a hobby, building shelves and cabinets. One evening, while contemplating a lamp I had made for a specific purpose using wood, I was struck by the effect of light emanating from the slits in the wood. The idea was born to use this effect as a medium of expression. At first, I created single pieces with one bulb then developed sculptures with two parts with the accent on the space between the two components. Later, I began to make pieces with three and four parts, always using light to accentuate the interaction between the individual components.
I love working with wood because although it is malleable, it has lived and its struggle is reflected in the figure of the wood. It has solved many problems and my quest to create sculptures using wood and light poses many problems which I more or less successfully solve.
What technique do you use to integrate the light source into each wood sculpture?
The way the sculptures are constructed is that each individual component is cut to form, glued together with spacers and then sanded to the final shape. The light bulbs are placed inside each section of the piece and shine through the gaps in the form.
I have tried out many sorts of wood over the years, but settled mainly on red alder birch and maple as these woods combine well with the light, so that the boundary between the wood and the light is flowing. I use other woods like pear and plum only as a centerpiece of the sculpture.
Because I can only mount the bulbs after all the other work is finished, the moment when I turn on the light for the first time is one of joyful suspense. Only then can I finally see how well my intention has been realized.
What type of collectors are you selling to?
My work is unique in that being exquisite as a sculpture, with or without lights, it also transforms any room in which it is placed, creating a wonderful ambience in which people’s hearts are uplifted and their minds are calmed. The majority of sales are to residential customers, as my art works best in an intimate environment.
Do you create any work on commission?
Although each sculpture is unique and cannot be replicated exactly, I have enjoyed designing pieces that meets the customers’ specifications and I love the challenge of new commissions.
How do you market your sculpture?
My work is mainly sold at art shows and galleries, where the people are able to experience the sculptures with all of their senses. Although photos cannot adequately display the full beauty of the pieces, I have also sold a surprising amount online. I am also quite happy to have customers visit my workshop.