Jilly Sutton is renowned for her remarkable skills as a carver. Starting with an often massive piece of fallen timber she works directly into the wood unlocking the form within but always paying heed to the properties of the material. ‘As a sculptor, you have to think in three dimensions all the time’, explains Jilly, ‘especially with the “subtraction” way of working, rather than with “building up” as in modelling. There is only one decision with carving which is to take away or not to take away … I start off with drawing from all angles- but as the shape develops, I abandon the drawings and rely on the work to evolve, to take its form from the wood’.
Jilly’s two dimensional relief forms made to hang on the wall are an extension of this process. She has developed inventive techniques of jig-saw printing and relief painting on wood. Texture is a key element in all of her work, exploiting the grain of the wood.
Jilly draws daily – fluid, linear sketches – drawing is a necessary part of her process of creating a sculpture. It may be just the ‘scribble of an idea’ or a ‘thinking aloud concept’ or it can develop into a proper scale drawing that fits a piece of wood. ‘It is a process of look- draw-cut- look again.’ Often there is an accidental serendipity to the carving; the cut-away shapes of many of her heads are the result of knots in the wood or areas of rot.
Wood is a living breathing medium and Jilly’s work reflects an intimate knowledge of its properties and limitations, her carvings exploit the natural forms and contours of the medium. The force behind her work comes from the tranquillity of her surroundings. Her house and studio are on the banks of the Dart Estuary where the calmness and order of the river continually influence the peacefulness of her work.
The Tilt Yard Lady, is a bronze resin cast from a famous Monterey Pine that fell in the jousting court of Dartington Hall Gardens. The rotten area on the left cheek remains to tell the story of the aged, much loved, but very rotten tree. The Architect, also cast in verdigris bronze resin from the original wood assemblage, reflects the chaos and resolution associated with building projects. These limited edition castings taken from the original carvings are suitable for display outdoors.
Jilly studied at Exeter College of Art, her portrait of the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, is now in the National Portrait Gallery. Among her many other commissions are works for the Museum of Liverpool Life and the Royal Institute of British Architects.