New Work

With the recent acquisition of a giant lathe, Kane is once again producing monumental, large-scale pieces such as Lisnavagh 2/14.


Emmet Kane’s current body of work explores two extremes. With the recent acquisition of a giant lathe, Kane is once again producing monumental, large-scale pieces such as Lisnavagh 2/14. The title for this piece is taken from the place, the month and the year when the tree was felled. Its tall cone structure, recessed with brilliant galactic blue echoes back to Kane’s use of this colour at the turn of the century. However the sheer scale of the piece encompasses the space around it enticing interaction

E.7.E.11, ebonised and textured oak with deep red lacquer, 2015 .

E.7.E.11, ebonised and textured oak with deep red lacquer, 2015

In the last year Kane has been inspired by the lacquer work of Irish émigré Eileen Gray (1878- 1976) – combining smooth, sumptuous red lacquer and textured, Irish burr oak in his vessels with his piece E.7.E.11. The title is in homage to the coding system which Gray used for her famous villa in Roquebrune in the south of France entitled E.1027, 1926-29. It represented the letters and numbers of the architect who designed the building (Eileen Gray) and the owner (Jean Badovici). The code being E for Eileen, 10 for the tenth letter of the alphabet for Jean, 2 for the second letter of the alphabet Badovici and 7 for the seventh letter of the alphabet Gray. Kane called his piece E.7.E.11 – Eileen Gray, Emmet Kane by using Gray’s numerical and alphabetical system. This piece was inspired directly from seeing the Eileen Gray exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland 2002 and then the exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2013. Kane became fascinated by the ancient art of lacquering and wanted to study exactly how Eileen Gray had created her lustrous red and orange lacquer ware.

ebonised and textured oak with deep red lacquer, 2015 - detail

ebonised and textured oak with deep red lacquer, 2015 - detail

Ancient lacquer is an arduous task and is highly toxic. Naturallacquer comes from the sap of the Rhus tree and the process begin with priming the wood, sealing it with a layer of silk gauze adhered with rice gum, and then painting the natural lacquer in layers onto the wood. Pigments and colours can be added to get various effects. The process has to be performed in an humid environment and each individual piece is covered with up to forty layers of lacquer which takes up to ten days to dry. Kane used a modern day process of lacquering – yet similarly he had to work in a humid environment and build up the layers of red lacquer inside the vessel repeatedly. Kane created the vessel using ebonised and textured oak which contrasts sharply with the smooth, glistening surface of the red lacquer interior. He left the vessel also with a natural edge which is an effective visual to entice people to look inside.

Bleached Irish burr oak with 23c gold leaf, 2015

The pale tempera, gold paintings of the late Patrick Scott (1921-2014) have also had a profound influence on Kane who visited the Patrick Scott: Image Space Light retrospective exhibition which had been organised by the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, in 2014. Kane was struck immediately by Scott’s gold period and especially by one painting in particular Gold Painting 14/79. The resulting piece entitled P.S 2014 is in homage to this great artist. As the title suggests P.S are Scott’s initials. His approach to the piece reflects a sensibility and visual intelligence of Scott’s work which Emmet has attempted to create in a third dimensional effect. P.S 2014, is a textured, circular form in bleached Irish burr oak, offset with a gilded geometrical form. This piece is also quite architectonic – revealing Kane’s interest in architecture and in its totality the piece is spatially aware. Kane’s use of the bleached oak reflects Scott’s treatment of his work with the pale translucence of tempera laid onto wet canvas. Scott’s ingenious use of gold in his work was fostered by journeys to Venice. Kane also looked to Scott’s structural elements which appeared in his work – the solar disc, the mandala, the half-disc. Kane’s circular piece takes Scott’s ideas and pushes them into a sculptural, yet organic form. Hints of the Oriental also appear in P.S 2014 as the radial lines which emanate out from the form appear like a fan.

Bleached Irish burr oak with 23c gold leaf, 2015 detail

Emmet Kane is critical at times that in modern and contemporary wood turning that makers are now beginning to treat the raw material as if it were a plastic, obfuscating the natural elements of the material with new gimmicks and media.35 The key to understanding Emmet Kane is that he directly connects with the object during the making process as if he is searching for the inherent soul or spirit of the wood in a quest to release it. Using a highly personal language each piece he has created over twenty seven-years demonstrates a dialogue between the artist/craftsman and the material. As a direct result there is an energy surrounding each of his pieces and for this reason his work directly engages with the observer. Kane’s craft combines the old and the new; old woods and novel materials, antiquity, archaeology and contemporary art, and ancient philosophy with new ideas. Looking at the collective body of three decades of work one views each piece as a page in his story. Kane believes that to progress further as an artist and craftsman one must work with the hands to free the mind. With the production of three strikingly different pieces in the last year, Lisnavagh 2/14, P.S 2014 and E.7.E.11 in 2015 he embarks once more on a new and exciting journey.