Woodcarving in Tasmania

Whilst travelling in Tasmania earlier this year I came across the work of two professional Tasmanian woodcarvers – one, Eddie Freeman, a chainsaw carver and the other, Greg Duncan, a mallet and gouge man. Both are referred to locally as sculptors rather than woodcarvers. Diappointingly, despite the wonderful skills of these two carvers I could find no evidence of an amateur woodcarving movement such as we have through the BWA in the UK.

Legerwood Avenue of Honour

The hamlet of Legerwood located in north eastern Tasmania had not even been named in 1914 when the call went out for young men to join the Anzacs to fight in World War One. Seven of those who joined up from this remote settlement were to die in the trenches of the Somme and Passendale. When the war ended in 1918 family and friends of the fallen soldiers planted nine cypress trees – one for each man plus one for Gallipoli and another for the Anzacs . This 'Avenue of Honour' was intended to be a lasting memorial but in 1999 the trees with their heavy boughs were deemed to be a safety hazard and destined to be felled. But, in the spirit in which the trees had been planted so many years before, the tiny but determined community rallied and enlisted the talents of skilled Tasmanian chainsaw carver, Eddie Freeman, to bring the soldiers back to life in sculpture using the coppiced lower trunks and branches.

Extensive research relating to the men’s stories and photographs from the period ensured the carvings were as authentic as possible. Eddie's carved memorial lies in gently rolling parkland adjacent to Legerwood's main street and is now visited by hundreds of people each year. The dead soldiers stories told through the carvings and the small plaques placed at the base of each tree reaching a far wider audience than previously. Images for eddie freeman chainsaw carver The Wall in the Wilderness Wood sculptor Greg Duncan is based in the tiny settlement of Derwent Bridge located in the Central Highlands of Tasmania adjacent to the Lake St Clair National Park. Here, in a purpose built gallery he is creating a stunning sculpture.

The Wall in the Wilderness

The Wall tells the history of the harsh Central Highlands region beginning with the indigenous people, then to the pioneering timber harvesters, pastoralists, miners and hydro workers. There are also scenes depicting the environmental plight of the wedge-tail eagle, orange bellied parrot and the extinction of the Thylacine (the Tasmanian Tiger). When complete The Wall will be a hundred metres long consisting of laminated Huon Pine panels measuring a metre wide by three metres high and 10 centimetres thick.

Each panel is marked out with the rough shape of the subject to be carved, the background is then routered out to a depth of four centimetres before Greg gets to work with mallet and gouge. The completed carvings are sanded before the background is textured using a small gouge and mallet. The detail in his carving is phenomenal but here and there the carving is left unfinished to demonstrate the process. Each panel takes approximately one month to carve and so far Greg has been working for eight years on this ten year project.

The completed sections of the wall are displayed in a purpose built wooden gallery with the panels placed back-to-back along a fifty metre length. The lighting system enhances the light and shadow that plays on the relief carvings helping to bring them to life. It is indeed hard to appreciate that this effect is achieved from indenting to only a depth of four centimetres.

Jerry Hughes

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