30 years of Russwood set in bronze
Managing Director, John Russell, called upon the expertise of artist, Arthur Watson, to create a one-off bronze sculpture to mark 30 years of Russwood. In his own words, Arthur tells us about the story of its creation and where he got his inspiration from.
John got in touch through Fergus Purdie, the architect with whom I share a building in Perth. The connection of all 3 of us is that Fergus and I developed the building together and Russwood provided its cladding. As a student, I worked in hotels in Kingussie and Aviemore and I worked on the Cairngorms Art Project, so I was familiar with the area.
Drawing inspiration from architecture
I have a long-term interest in vernacular architecture in Scotland, the USA, and Japan, which has informed my work in constructed wooden sculpture, occasionally on an architectural scale. With Russwood, there was an opportunity to make a small-scale “model” building, but a model that could survive outside in all weathers. After an extended series of sketches and half-size drawings, the element of an actual size circular saw blade was added. The blade cut through both building and base, echoing the process of sawing whilst introducing an aspect of the unexpected.
Trust the process
Next, I developed a full-size sketch model on a stepped base which confirmed the form of the final work. This also informed discussions with Powderhall Bronze in Edinburgh who made the moulds from my patterns and then cast the component parts in bronze. The pandemic slowed many aspects of the project; travel restrictions, facilities closed for months at a time, and resulting backlogs. A small piece of work can take a disproportionate amount of time – it will be looked at more closely and the execution of details will be crucial.
For this project, bronze was the obvious and, for me, the only choice. It is a flexible medium that stands up well outdoors no matter the weather. I have worked on several outdoor bronzes for Skye and Lewis as well as in more passive surroundings in Aberdeen and St Andrews.
For this work, I was able to use miniature slices of Russwood cladding on the outer skin of the building. The sand-cast bronze beautifully highlighted the grain of the wood. The other advantage of working with Brian Caster at Powderhall is his mastery of chemical patination introducing a delicate pallet of shifts in colour and tone, complimenting the textures of the casts.
John had always predicted snow for the installation which held off until the night before. It cleared by mid-morning, only for horizontal sleet to follow as the van with the bronze pulled into the car park. The team from Russwood and Powderhall made short work of lowering and fixing the 100-kilo bronze onto its table. Russwood made the table on-site from their own Accoya® timber. Viewed from the decking outside the showroom, the bronze lined up with a distant band of trees. From the north end of the railway platform, the interplay between the bronze and the actual buildings was satisfying.
Thanks to Arthur for sharing his process with us and creating a beautiful bronze to mark 30 years of Russwood. Visit us for a cladding, decking, or flooring tour and see the bronze on display at our Newtonmore office.