I always had scalpels lying around and one day just started whittling a 4×4 block of Totara. I got really into it and wound up carving a little head – I was hooked.
It was like the opposite of painting where you use light to create form – in carving you use form to create light. Taking away rather than laying it on. There was an arcane and primal aspect that was there between you and the blade and wood and humans and trees from the dawn of time. What interested me were people so that’s what I carved – heads and bodies.
It was never a problem getting the wood once I started, my builder mates – Les Knight, Rob Clarkson and my dad – all loved native NZ timber and the fact I was carving it. Mainly Totara and Rimu, demo material off old houses. Three large Totara house piles became the Three Lucys.
We lived on Wigan Street and I had a massive studio and workshop space. I built a special plinth that I could screw the larger pieces onto and carved my own mallets. No electric tools just chisels, scalpels and rasps.
I painted them with egg tempera in primary colours.
I had been reading a lot of religious philosophy – Hindu, Jain, Nordic and Buddhist and incorporated their ideas into the work and named them The Strange Angels.
The heads were quite masculine and the bodies femme but with big shoulders and sometimes extra arms. There was a bit of danger to the fingers involved for a guitarist but I managed to carve fifty angels with sharp chisels and scalpels.
Darcy Nicolas from Pataka Gallery in Porirua loved them and I had a show there and also in Auckland at Anna Bibby Gallery. They were pretty well received but I only sold a few out of town – they stayed like a big family until I showed them at Ron Barber Gallery on Aro Street where a lot of people bought them. The three big Lucys I sold to one guy and they are still together in Rotorua.
I know that there are fifty Strange Angels out there floating around – totally original and unique and all still part of this big weird family – the Pauls and James, the Taras and the Vivians, the Guards and the big Lucys.