Sometimes there are no words to describe feelings conjured by a piece of art or architecture. Such is the case when viewing pieces by master craftsman Joseph Walsh. Perhaps equally stunning is the fact that Walsh is almost entirely self-taught, lending his works an unfettered and unfiltered edge when compared with his contemporaries. Regardless, Walsh’s bespoke works bring an entirely new meaning to the term “functional art.”
Functional Art at Its Finest: The Timeless Work of Joseph Walsh
A more apt description for what Walsh creates is functional sculpture. Created primarily from wood, the vast majority of his pieces are usable. This roster includes the Magnus Celestii, a desk whose top continues into a 25-meter long wood spiral that swirls up into the ceiling or the stunning Enignum Canopy Bed that inspires images of magical sailing vessels or an Fairytale sleigh while still managing to look completely relevant in a 21st century residence.
Of course, wealthy homeowners aren’t the only ones who appreciate his ability to produce furniture and sculptures, which are simultaneously delicate and sturdy while juxtaposing hard wood surfaces against their ability to appear soft and fluid. His work has also been commissioned by Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the National Museum of Ireland among other collectors.
Perhaps a comparison could be made between Walsh’s works, which celebrate wood in all her unrestrained glory, and Robby Cuthbert who produces similarly captivating wood pieces but, not surprising given Cuthbert’s training, imbue a more structured impression.
Walsh’s training took place on his family farm, via traditional woodworking books and the wisdom gleaned from a local boat builder. This level of freedom is evident in his approach to furniture design which, in his words, “…is like a dance…You have an idea for a piece, a sequence, a movement, a form, but then you have to work with the performers to get the most out of them.”
It is our sincere wish that Walsh continues to choreograph dances between his ideas and wood’s inherent layering and form. There is no doubt that his unmistakable and unrivaled works will appreciated for generations to come.
Are you a fan of exquisite woodwork and craftsmanship? Don’t miss the extraordinary exhibit “Audacious: The Fine Art of Wood,” at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. The exhibit consists of nearly 100 pieces of exquisite, contemporary wood art forms, curated from the collection of Robert M. and Lillian Montalto Bohlen. The collection includes a wood wall hanging that looks like a fabric quilt, a sculpture made of a sliced wooden bowl, and tiny worlds in a box. They will be available on display to the public until June 21, 2015.