We cooperate as an association to advance the practice of sculpture and the reputation and appreciation of sculpture and sculptors in the community. This is regardless of whether or not we make a living from sculpture and regardless of our preferred style or medium. To this end we support artists’ moral rights, we advocate a professional attitude to the production and presentation of work and encourage the artistic and intellectual stimulation of interaction amongst artists of all persuasions.

Vale John Wooller

John Wooller, a past ASV president, died on 23rd December 2018 following a long and debilitating illness. His family were with him at the time.

He was my good friend and confidante as well as being a creative mentor to me for almost twenty years. I will miss our regular get togethers where we would pontificate over all manner of matters. Most of all he enjoyed pondering the human condition.

John was a fine man known for being erudite and insightful. He possessed a wry sense of humour along with stimulating, and occasionally quirky, observations on life. Yes, he could be crusty and direct at times, yet he harboured no ill towards different perspectives and views. He just didn’t like being bored. As smart as a whip, John possessed broad intellectual rigour. He derived much pleasure and satisfaction from his artistic energies and loved the tactile experience of sculpture. And when he could no longer sculpt due to his physical limitations he turned his talents to photography.

John was known and regarded as a fine painter, working in abstract styles, at times almost surreal contexts, producing some extraordinary and captivating canvases of detailed work. As a sculptor he worked across many media, including wood, granite, stainless steel and bronze. In each he excelled. As a woodworker he was almost without peer, particularly in America where he was regarded and acknowledged as an innovator and pioneer in his work. Such was his renown as a "Woodie" that John stretched the understanding of what’s possible on the lathe with increasingly sophisticated planning and exquisite execution in craftsmanship. He also loved words, books and writing. He had been teaching himself to read Chinese characters so he could immerse himself in Mandarin poetry. His progressing illness over the past eighteen months or so meant he was unable to complete the manuscript to his most recent book.

We talked a lot about artistic endeavours and creative concepts. John would explain to me how he endeavoured to create the element of wonder in his work for the viewer, particularly his pieces in wood. He was almost always interested in how his carving of a piece could make a fundamental contribution to the form. Jarrah was his favourite of the woods, particularly the burls formed over the blemishes in a tree’s trunk. He thought these a wonderful medium with which he could express his vision and ideas. To this end, he would write about working with wood. "While it can be strained at times by one or the other of us not coming up to expectations, our relationship is one of respect and empathy with a touch of awe. It is, above all, material to be touched, and nothing gives me more pleasure than the final stages of a piece of work in which, when necessary, I indulge in the sheer hedonism of fine sanding by hand of an organic form. In trying to create something that hopefully will have a life of its own, rather than overpowering it with technicalities, I tend to caress it into being." Accordingly, I will always hold a particular affection for his Shakespeare-themed series of beautifully and poignantly resolved carvings.

In addition to acquiring a number of major prizes during the course of his artistic life, one of John’s finest achievements as a sculptor is his collection of stainless steel works that form the impressive Bidgee Riverside Cultural Trail sculpture walk located in Hay, Victoria. It will be an enduring series of public sculpture.

John’s work appears in a number of prestigious American art publications and international woodwork journals. He was a major prize winner throughout his career, and his works are held in countless private and public collections across Australia and overseas.

We’ve lost a good one. Farewell John.
Mark Cowie

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