Exmoor Artist Completes Ambitious Commission

Exmoor Chainsaw Carver Matthew Crabb is set to complete his first large-scale international commission this spring.  In October he was awarded the task of carving the world’s largest wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, a project which took him to the small town of Schochwitz in Germany.  The carving was the brain-child of the owner of the town’s historic castle, Ingrid Straub-Zerfowski’s and her partner James Welsh.  “When Matthew came to us, we knew we had found an artist with the drive and raw talent to create something breathtaking,” say Ingrid.  “This isn’t intended to be a purely Christian symbol.  The Madonna represents nature, love, fertility, nurturing…. Matthew has created a very simple but incredibly powerful image.”

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Matthew grew up on Exmoor in the villages of Dunster and Washford and now lives in Minehead.  His artistic talents have always been self-evident, but it seems he discovered his true niche when he began experimenting with chainsaw carving and realised the potential for creating three-dimensional works of art.  Even at 27, he is quickly becoming recognised as one of the leaders in his field, and attends competitions such as the English Open Chainsaw Carving Championships, where he came fourth last year.  Recent commissions include a large project in Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens.

Working in West Somerset, Matthew has a great supply of wood as his raw material, but also a very ready store of inspiration.  Past commissions show this artists’ delight in the natural world – a proud stag, a bird swooping to catch its prey or elemental shapes suggesting movement and growth – all draw on the diverse beauty of the landscape of Exmoor.  Matthew’s work is sought-after by a growing legion of fans who are clamouring to commission work for their gardens.

This project in Germany represents Matthew’s most challenging carving to date.  He has chosen to create a figure with simple, organic lines enlivened with difficult technical details.  Incredibly hard to carve with a chainsaw, the roses which grow upwards are a reminder of the symbolic nature of the sculpture.

Working for up to ten hours a day, sometimes using floodlights in the dark, Matthew has to manoeuvre his heavy chainsaw whilst on a small platform.  He works intuitively without detailed drawings or designs and explains how difficult it is to judge the impact of each mark he makes when working on such a large scale.  “It is so hard to know whether you are on the right track up there on the platform.  If you get something wrong, there is no going back.” Despite the challenges, Matthew is enjoying the experience.  “I really love my work, I am very lucky really. I work to the very highest level I can, so each piece I do is a part of a progression and inspires the next. I want to be impressed by the finished result as much as the person who commissioned it.”

The sculpture is on target to be finished in May, when Matthew will be returning to West Somerset to start on a new body of work.  For more information on Matthew’s work including how to go about commissioning a carving, log on to www.matthewcrabb.com or e-mail info@matthewcrabb.com

Matthew Crabb, Exmoor Chainsaw Carver – March 2011
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