wooden sculpture


Jorge Palacios

In a way I confess I feel fortunate because my work as a sculptor and the day to day contact with the material let me grow very fast; I am well aware that it is not at all usual for the spheres of theory and practical work to move so much hand in hand. For me the knowledge of wood removes the limits to expression when creating, giving me the liberty to work on creations that can be situated outdoors. The technology of the material is a means for me to achieve a goal, a tool; without it, many of my projects would be limited or I would achieve results other than those I aimed at as a creator.

Urban sculpture and its author Jorge PalaciosOn the other hand, I understand the material I work with as a support, that must, at any time, adapt itself to the idea and the format of each piece and that must not restrict or condition the plasticity or the expressivity. In fact, wood gives my hands the feeling of being as mouldable as clay and it never conditions me towards certain volumes or formats. On the contrary, it gives me the freedom to work with it according to the requirements of each project.

Through these lines I intend to share some reflections and theoretic considerations about the technological preparation process I have devised, discussing some outstanding results we have obtained in laboratory tests, adding some other ideas about this singular sculptural process I have developed in the passed years.
As a sculptor working in wood to carry out my work it is very interesting to study some examples throughout history, and not only history of art, that highlight the  durability of wood, and thus through extrapolation and conclusion understand why these pieces still exist in our times and we can still enjoy them.

On the other hand historians usually consider that the degradation suffered by a piece of art along time is part of its history, although they are conscious of the fact that with this transformation part of the original information the author tried to reflect in it is lost. Personally, I am highly interested in preventing this information from being lost. The expressive, artistic value of my work should remain unaltered as much as possible. In fact, when planning different ways of conceiving a sculpture, I try to choose the most appropriate method so that the curves and tensions of each of my pieces last as long as possible in the same state I conceived them, using present day science and technology.



Just as there are types of wood that do not burn and others that do not float, so there are woods that are especially resistant to the passage of time.

Through the History of Art, we know of the existence of sculptures made of wood that are still in a good state of conservation today. The most representative examples of such items are:

  • The Shiguir idol, the oldest wooden sculpture in the world, dating from 7,500 B.C. – the end of the Mesolitic period – wich is on display in the Keyaterimburg Ethnographic Museum in Russia.
  • The famous Egyptian wooden sculpture, Sheik-el-Beled, made around the year 2,750 B.C., wich is currently kept in the Cairo Museum in Egypt.
  • It is thought that the oldest wooden sculptures sited outdoors that have been preserved may be totem poles sucha as the following:
  • Haida wooden totem poles from British Columbia (Canada), that are at present on show in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, France.
  • The great Polynesian sculpture in the Rockefeller Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in the United States.

Leaving sculpture aside, there are also numerous examples of houses, temples and ships built of wood thah, even though at the time the specific treatments and knowledge we have today were not available. The following are some representative examples of such constructions:

  • The Horyuji Buddhist temple in Ikaruga, Japan, wich dates from the year 670 and possesses the oldest buildings in the world. It has been registered as an UNESCO Worl Heritage Site.
  • The Oseberg Viking ship dating from 820 A.C., currently in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.
  • The Baoguo Temple, also known as the Linshan temple, wich dates from 1013 and contains the oldest wooden structure in the whole of China.
  • The famous Torii (gate) of Itsukushima, Japan, dating from 1,170.