Tom Ekert – wood illusions

Tom Ekert is a wonderful artist, he plays with wood, creating magic designs that trick your eye. Except that is a wonderful and complex person and I am very happy that we`ve met, even if only on the internet 🙂

Please tell us something about you and how did you discover you crafting talent?

As a child, I was always involved in making things (toys, models, useful objects, etc.).  I was intrigued by comic books – not to read but to experience the art.  I spent many hours making things and drawing anything that interested me.  In my early formal education, typical art classes bored me.  When I got to college, all that changed and I knew art would be a lifelong commitment for me.  Sometime during my graduate school years, I found myself working on shaped canvases and constructing objects that I would then paint.  I had a need to break away from the constraints of two dimensions and I slowly drifted into sculpture. I experimented with different materials, sometimes constructing kinetic objects.  At one point, I thought plastic materials would be the future of sculpture and I experimented with acrylic, fiberglass, styrene and laminates.  But because of their toxicity, I switched to wood.  I quickly bonded with it as my main media because of its versatility.  For a time, I lathe-turned vessels and constructed furniture. I was excited by the possibilities of wood as a creative media but there was a price to pay.  Learning how to make what I imagined, materializing the abstract, was a challenge.  It took several years after graduate school to feel confident of my skills.  My illusionistic journey emerged sometime during the 80’s.  I have great respect for wood because of its intrinsic beauty but I also think of it as my expressive medium.  Painting has remained important because it plays a role in pushing my ideas to fruition.

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 Are you a self taught artist?

I am academically trained as an artist and hold a Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting.  As far as working with wood as my creative medium, I am self-taught.

What inspires you to create these sculptures?

Creative ideas do not really just happen; they require a great deal of work – “agony and ecstasy”.  For me, it is about wanting to make something challenging and innovative.  The question is always “what will it be?”  Then the real work begins with focused thinking, drawing and all kinds of research.  The process can take days, weeks or months (sometimes years).  After working through this “agony” for an undefined time, the epiphany usually happens, but I have never experienced it without the prior, arduous work. For instance, Cumulus Cover, one of my recent pieces, is based on the dichotomous relationship between nature’s beauty and the threat imposed by a nuclear event (beautiful clouds versus devastation).  When I was in grade school we had drills to prepare us for a nuclear attack.  The siren would sound and we would take cover under our desks.  Some of my peer’s homes had bomb shelters complete with survival supplies and weapons to fend off possible intruders.  As a post World War II child living through a series of wars including the Cold War, I have anxieties that are sometimes revealed in my work.

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Cumulus Cover

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Numinous Levitation

Can you explain us a little the crafting process of your sculptures?

My creative process always starts with an idea about what to make. For example, one day I received a call from one of my galleries requesting a piece to include in one of their shows – an exhibition based on books.  I gave it a quick think and thought, “What the hell can I do with books?”  Not having much else going in the studio at the time, I thought I would see what I could come up with.  I tormented for days.  Then one night while doing my usual run, I focused on books.  During my cool-down walk home the bolt hit, I had a vision that really excited me.  I could hardly wait to get home to my studio to begin work so as not to loose the idea.  That is how Numinous Levitation happened.  I envisioned the image of a book, shrouded by cloth, floating from a stack of other books.  I was so excited about the magical implications and the challenge to make it happen that the sculpture nearly materialized on its own. Technically, evolving from a painting and drawing background, I seem compelled to paint on my carvings.  Generally, my aim is to work from realism (the imagery) to an illusionistic end.  I use mostly traditional techniques in carving (mallet and gouge) but will use any tool that justifies the end result.  Paint is applied in any way that seems to fit the piece – brush, spray gun, airbrush, etc.

Do you use other materials except wood?

I only use wood and paint in all of my pieces.  Wood to me is like clay is to the potter.  It is my expressive medium.

Do you also do custom orders?

Sometimes I will accept commission work if I can get interested in what is proposed.  Commissioned work can be challenging but I really prefer making one-of-a-kind pieces.

Do you think of the design before starting your craft or the shape comes naturally during the  process? 

I view “design” as a compositional tool for making the work.  I think most formally trained artists are schooled in how to use design skills in producing ideas.  My use of design is more intended to create composition rather than design for sake of design.

Where do you think that your work is most appreciated? Why?

I hope my work is most appreciated by a vast range of people.  I want them to connect to what I make. The work should transcend the materials that it is made of and should exist on its own level. I would like people viewing my work to be strongly compelled by the idea or the creative concept suggested by the piece rather than only being mesmerized by its technical virtuosity.  As music needs to be heard, it is necessary for visual art to be viewed.  For this reason I exhibit my work whenever and wherever I can.  Exhibition venues can include public and private collections, museums, galleries and the Internet.

Where do you exhibit your work?

I currently show my work through various galleries and art venues throughout the U.S., Europe and the Internet.

Thank you, it was an honour 🙂

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