Abstract Forms and Coloured Spikes

With the arrival of the new millennium Emmet Kane’s work radically evolved with a series of abstract forms.


Spikey Lad, ebonised oak with dyed red spikes, 2004; private collection

With the arrival of the new millennium Emmet Kane’s work radically evolved with a series of abstract forms and vessels with coloured spikes, hollowed forms, crocks with folds of wood, and abstract large-scale sculptural pieces, formed without a lathe. Now a master of textures, he experimented in colour. Many were critical of this stylistic change in his work however it was Kane’s attempt at expanding beyond the vessel, to reconnect to the universal concept of making art and to manifest these concepts into primary forms.

Gráinneóg, ebonised holm oak with dyed red spikes, 2005              

This new direction was a shock to the collectors and dealers who had known Kane for his standardised bowls and vessels and wall mounted sculptural pieces. Kane had gone from being a woodturner, who in his early years had celebrated an aesthetic that endorsed the natural beauty of the wood, to now creating pieces that were malformed, which embraced the imperfections, the flaws, the warping and cracking. Kane made these imperfections the central core to understanding the concept of the work. Pushing these concepts even further Kane then added colours – bold, bright, vibrant, primary colours, expanding into luxurious metallic tones. Combined with ebonising the wood many vessels and sculptural pieces appeared like old metal castings, partially melted or eroded.

Recession Proof, burr elm with 23c gold leaf and dyed yellow spikes, 2009

Burr elm with 23c gold leaf and dyed yellow spikes, 2009

His sea-urchin type pieces or spiked forms create a clever optical illusion. The inherent, tactile nature of the wood invites the viewer to touch the piece yet the sharp, colourful spikes in primary colours signal a warning. The use of the ebonised wood gives the appearance of cast iron and provides a stark contrast to the red spikes.

Cone of Gold, ebonised and textured burr oak and Cone of Colour.

In 2008 he exhibited several pieces as part of the Craft Council of Ireland’s showcase at Sofa in Chicago. Cone of Gold, made from ebonised and textured burr oak with 23c gold leaf and dyed yellow spikes, 2008, and Cone of Colour, made from burr elm with blue pearlescent ink and blue dyed spikes, 2008, caught the attention of the National Museum of Ireland for their originality and eccentricity. As a result Kane’s first two pieces were acquired for the National Collections. After this show his spiked pieces appeared more frequently at international exhibitions. He later in 2008 also began to bleach the woods elongating them which resulted in two pieces for Farmleigh house, the official Irish State guest house.

Crock of Gold, ebonised Irish burr oak with 23c gold leaf, 2011;

Kane’s heightened sensitivity to the complexity of the wood and its properties resulted in his Crock series which defied the difficulties of the medium and whose use of colour and texture is more readily associated with ceramics or glass. There is warmth created from the smooth, multiple folds of flowing wood on the outside and the flecks of metallic paint from within a deep recessed centre, often decorated in 23c gold. The pieces vary in size appearing like ancient vessels – some are small and delicate, others are voluptuous such as the Crock of Gold, 2011 in the National Museum of Ireland collection. Sometimes Kane changed direction bleaching the oak, texturing it and painting the deep recess of the crock in pearlescent shocking pink or purple such as Crock of Colour, 2003.

Crock of Colour, bleached oak with pink pearlescent ink, 2003

Crock of Colour, bleached oak with pink pearlescent ink, 2003

From 2008 to 2009 Kane began exploring a body of sculptural work such as Hewn and Where to Now both completed in 2009. This work was the complete antithesis of everything that he had produced prior to this point. Distorted and cracked pieces of wood, completed using only tools, which focused solely on the sculptural elements of the wood. His exploration into pure abstract took an even more herectical turn when Kane then decided to add paint to certain pieces.

Wedge, ebonised and textured burr oak with 23c gold leaf, 2011

In 2009 Kane had a joint exhibition with the Irish ceramicist Michael Moore at Farmleigh in Dublin entitled Earth Spun, Frozen Fire, which displayed a culmination of years of Kane’s work. Despite receiving critical acclaim and being described as an “internationally recognised master” of his craft Kane, once again restless, embarked on a new journey in 2011 producing his Wedge series. Kane had explored primary forms such as the circle and the square. He produced his Wedge series during this year when he began looking at triangular elements in his work. When seen as an ensemble they act as a sculptural triptych yet each form is able to visually stand alone.