A growing passion

“People ask me, ‘how long have you been an artist?’, and it’s been since I was really young. It’s always been a big thing of mine,” Norm Matechuk says with a laugh.

“Eventually it came back to wood turning, but I always did art of some sort, like metal sculpting.”

With his cap and jacket still on, Matechuk stands among his latest works in the Arts Underground Gallery. Over a dozen pieces make up the new exhibition, For The Love of Wood.

“The reason that I actually got into wood turning was that I was going to turn my wife some buttons because she was into designer-type dresses. And then I found there was much more to it than I thought. It wasn’t as simple as I thought,” he explains.

At the tender age of about 14, Matechuk says he manipulated the medium into gunstocks – that sparked his experience with wood, but only time helped it to grow.

He now crafts exotic bowls, platters and vessels, as well as sculptures and art furniture, like a small table in the exhibit exploring the natural lines of a significant slab of Alaska yellow birch burl.

“You can accomplish a lot more once you get past the technical side. That things don’t just spin around and around; that you actually carve and shape forms,” he says.

“Then I got bitten by the bug and now it’s actually an addiction. It sure ain’t a hobby,” he says with a pause and another laugh.

As Matechuk walks through the exhibit, his knowledge of the artistic lumber is immediately evident. He describes the smallest details within the swirling and speckled grain of a shallow bowl titled Rhapsody, made of fir birdseye burl from Vancouver Island.

Then without hesitation he grabs an untitled piece made from Alaska yellow birch and proceeds to explain how the grains cross to create a sense of depth – all based on a theory that the tree bends in the wind.

“There’s only thousands,” he says with a dose of sarcasm when asked how he identifies with his medium.

“I love being educated and, of course, I’m curious. With wood species and types of wood … there’s a dozen kinds of walnut alone. You can learn more than you want to know pretty quickly.”

Clean lines and smooth surfaces are married with the wood’s natural imperfections in each of Matechuk’s works. And while most deeply explore the depths, colours, flaws and inner textures of the timber, he also employs additional artistry to others.

Without completely knowing the outcome, Matechuk says he applies metallic paint to some works. He then allows the machinery to spin the piece, deciding its visual fate. Ultimately it creates an embellishment of flecked paint along the outer edge of a bowl or platter.

For The Love of Wood visually exposes Matechuk’s affair with the medium.

“Wood is a perverse mistress,” reads his artist statement.

That description goes on to explain that wood is constantly in motion, partial to temperature; must be harvested green, dried slowly and that the prettiest of choices are basically miss-growths.

But perhaps the most relatable of Matechuk’s justifications is simply that “wood is beautiful and you gotta love it.”

Norm Matechuk’s exhibition, For The Love of Wood, is on display at Arts Underground until April 1.

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