Alan Faulds – Carved Kaleidoscope, By Martin Horan

As Published in Craft and Design, Issue 238, March/April 2015

Entering an Alan Faulds exhibition at Pittenweem Festival in Fife, I felt I’d wandered into some kind of wonderland
of mysterious, but colourful, lively shapes. I soon realised I was among objects of serious works of art and depiction. The giveaway was their detailed workmanship. And though each piece was an individual work in itself, the clear generic style stood out as that of a single artist. Their overall distinctive statement was a joining of the eerie with the humorous. This was so even in each individual piece. They are all figurative productions, carved from various woods. And the relief sculpture around the gallery walls was like none I’d seen before. It was a type of driftwood art. But the shapes included refined and painted pieces organised to make specific statements. They were slightly reminiscent of illustrations of mediaeval manuscripts and fantasy illustrations – though they were three
dimensional.

Aian told me, “There are two sides to my work: carved pieces and driftwood pieces. These driftwood ones are very different from the usual kinds. I use mine as a counterbalance between them and the carvings. It’s like the difference between an oil painting and a pencil sketch.” My view was that there was much more to his reliefs than a sketch. But I got his drift (pun intended)! He used different timbers with the large works, though the latter are virtually all carved oak and generally painted.

“l build up the surface like gesso – which I use – though it is labour intensive. It has to be done meticulously. It can also cover cracks. It starts off four to six coats of paint. Oil paint is best as it is good for blending. Then, after the paint, follows seven or eight coats of varnish.”

At least three crafts were blended: carving, painting and, to an extent, gold leaf which he sometimes applies. Alan also explained to me how he created the fleshy tones of the skins on the faces.

“Your work is strange and a bit funny.”
“In some ways I produce outsider art. I think that’s significant due to not having gone to art school.”

Alan studied architecture for five years at Strathclyde University and had worked in that line. He told me he did not see it as art in the sense that personally influenced his own form. Though there is a discernible design inspired by an interest of architecture in his reliefs. As a trained architect, Alan Faulds was used to design which he called the difference between drawing out and developing.

“But I always dabbled in painting and producing visual artworks. I even had that proclivity from my days at primary school, once trying to make a coach and horses from plasticine. So I’ve always enjoyed painting and shaping. But these things all work together.”

Whether that was consciously or not on Alan’s part, I saw from his works that knowledge and skill were combined.

“And to make things a bit odd and funny, you learn techniques in how to do that. It’s a feel you have which makes things appear more sinister with the humour. People do notice it. In fact, around a decade or so ago the Peter Porter gallery in Haddington billed my work as ‘Sculpture with a twist.’ So I make them quirky intentionally. I try to add a touch of humour and wit.”

“The process of carving takes a long time. It’s very rare for a piece to change because of all the influences. It makes the work more enjoyable because of the various impacts on my works”.

As to one which struck me as weird and funny, I wondered if there was some intended statement in a particular standing sculpture.

craftanddesign2“So was there some kind of symbolism in your two-headed smiling character?”
“Yes. Very often things are underlying the sinister in my work, like bringing something from the past. That’s why the sinister mixes with humour. It gives a lopsided view. Two heads on one body is a kind of retelling of Adam and Eve, two from the one body; pregnant together. It’s the classical pregnant woman gesture. Also like the opposites of fire and water, yin and yang.”
“And what are your main influences?”
“From everywhere and and anywhere: mediaeval and Spanish woodcarving, tarot cards. I’m interested in all kinds of art. Even from the cinema, internet and kids’ paint books. I also like ships figure heads and the cigar store Indians, folk art, Indian art – such as my four sided ones – and Aztec masks.”

Alan also said that he’d been influenced by the paintings of Matisse. I could see why by the colours he used on his sculptures, though both men’s styles are poles apart.

“What are the favourite pieces you’ve done?”
“There are a few. But one of my favourites was a tarot card clock. It took me about a year to make, between 2000 and 2001. It’s a virtual cascade of figures based on those on the cards. There is a lot going on in it and it was enjoyable to make.”
“Do you do many commissions?”
“l have done. But generally, I prefer not to. I did one for a belly dancer and researched Indian sculpture for the commission. I liked the job. It was a dancer on a pin-and-spin stand. Her kids were so horrified by it, that they’d cover it. ”

As no work is wasted, it’s what Alan calls “invested effort”. His work, is inspired by events, thoughts that annoy him, please him, nostalgia, past events – like those who “left before time” – songs and wise maxims, let alone visual art. And he expresses these things in his unique and entertaining and exquisite wood carvings. It would be a personal “invested effort” to check him out on his website. Alan is also listed on other sites. These will give you information of where his work was, is, and will be shown. Also, you’ll find these include his biography and impressive lists of former exhibitions.

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Pittenweem Arts Festival Q & A

Describe your art: Carved and painted oak or lime figurative sculpture. I also make small boats from driftwood

Malagan - pic 2

This photo illustrates a piece I made for my garden. I’m interested in making outdoor sculpture because of the challenges it presents, in particular painted wood. Unlike bronze my work fades, cracks and crazes and ultimately disintegrates. I consider myself to be part thief, part sculptor. The piece has influences from Mexico, the Baltic states, Greek mythology, personal narratives and much more. I’m always being asked to explain it. I prefer people to look at it and make up their own minds.

Tell us a little about your background and how you uncovered your love of art? I trained and practised as an architect for 40 years . During that time I’ve always made “things”

In your experience, what makes the Pittenweem Arts Festival so unique and special? I like to present a body of work to a variety of people some of whom might not be regular visitors to a art gallery

In which ways do you find you most relate to other artists? Almost without exception all the artists I relate to are dead. Not having been to art school means I tend to approach things independently and from a different point of view

Most treasured possession: From a burning house I’d save one or all of

a) A Kabuki woodblock triptych by Toyohara Kunichika

b) A large watercolour of Indian earthquake victims by Pat Douthewaite

c) A wall sculpture by Mario Chichorro

The most worthwhile advice you have ever been given: The Nike slogan “Just do it”

Your proudest moment: Billy Connelly and Pamela Anderson each separately buying work

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Garden sculpture becomes talking point

A SCULPTURE in Lower Largo is attracting interest in the local community and beyond.

Created by artist Alan Faulds, the distinctive brightly coloured work, entitled Malagan, sits in his garden overlooking the Firth of Forth.

The new Main Street attraction has become quite the talking point around town – is it a totem pole or a weather vane?

In fact, Alan revealed it was inspired by a trip to Lithuania in 2006, in which tall wooden roadside structures named Roofed Poles really caught his eye.

“They were sometimes erected to commemorate a particular event,” he explained. “For example, during Soviet control, a deportation of someone to Siberia might result in the erection of a Roofed Pole.

Usually it would be swiftly removed by the authorities.”

“These things struck a chord with me. I wanted to make something that carried that power.”

In November 2007, he heard the Texan singer-songwriter Sam Baker perform in Kirkcaldy and was inspired to sketch the sculpture the next day.

He commented: “Things started to fall into place while I was listening to songs about his life, particularly a song like “Broken Fingers”.

Malagan – named after sculptures from Papua New Guinea – was carved from five separate sections of Scottish oak.

“I also recycled some oak floorboards for the roof and cut up copper from my old hot water cylinder for the roof tiles and finial,” said Alan.

“The finish is oil paint thinned with orange and linseed oils. When I put it on at first it smelled of oranges.

Due to exhibition commitments, it took a year to finish and Alan confessed he hadn’t a clue what it would finally look like until it was assembled.

Although Malagan sculptures are usually frontal pieces, this work which incorporates images from the sea and mythology is read “in the round”.

“The body of the piece has four narrative panels. One of these relates to the singer I saw in Kirkcaldy,” continued Alan.

“The face looking out to sea is taken from a Central American mask used in the festival “Dance of the Conquest”.

Properly maintained, oak should last a very long time and the sculpture also benefits from a steel central core.

It does not have planning permission though, but Alan is quite philosophical about the eventual outcome of an application now.

“What I am interested in is the making of things and much less about what happens to them afterwards. Usually that is in someone else’s hands,” he said.

“Before starting work I spoke to my immediate next door neighbours. They have been very supportive, as have others, throughout the process.”

Read Article on Fife Today Website