Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chainsaw Master - Angela Polglaze

I’ve probably known Angie for about ten years now.  We met through a vibrant and very social community that formed via a pub, a croquet club, an artists’ studio and close proximity in the inner western suburbs.  After a number of social gatherings of our diverse network of “Seddonites” (well that’s what we called ourselves) I started to get to know my new "westie" friends.  We ranged from comedians, to print-makers, metal sculptors and workers, a community radio station salesperson, a vet, to students and a chainsaw carver!  Angie is the chainsaw carver … or the chainsaw chick or a power carver … or more simply a sculptor who uses chainsaws!  I have a deep respect for power tools and their abilities …. Including the ability to injure especially since first year Industrial Design when the lab technicians gave a series of grizzly accident stories to highlight the importance of health and safety in the workshop …. For that reason and many more I’ve always admire the guts Angie has had and still has to tackle such a field, particularly as an Australian.
Various Angie pieces.

Chainsaw Carving isn’t particularly known as an art form in Australia in comparison to countries such as America were there’s a thriving community of chainsaw carvers and a variety of events for them to display there talents.  According to Wikipedia the art form started in the 1950’s and has only in the last 3 decades expanded to become a worldwide phenomenon particularly the last decade due to the internet.  It’s nice to see Angie mentioned here actually as I’ve seen her work particularly hard to establish herself in this field in the time I’ve known her.
Chainsaw carving is more than just sculpting.  An element of the community being a performance element with quick carves often being involved in chainsaw carving events.   It’s performance art with a sculpture at the end!
Angie putting final touches on a mural.
When I first knew Angie she was relatively new to the field but her discovery of the international carving circuit has seen her travel all over the world participating in numerous events and receiving a multitude of awards.   It’s sounds like a story of riches and glamour, but trust me it’s been more a hard slog covered in sawdust and smelling like petrol, and I admire her courage.   
Although she is well known within carving circles (the internet is dotted with articles and mentions of her), I think the hardest thing she has tackled is the Australian artists market.  We not a particularly largely populated country … Bill Bryson compares Australia’s economic scale to that off the state of Illinois in the US in his book “Down Under” and I’ve always like that as example of how small the market-place here really is.  As an artist whether is be music, fine arts, contemporary art, crafts …  well most of the creative industries really, it can be tough.   It’s competitive to get attention and the Australian “tall poppies” syndrome doesn’t help. 
I found an article on Tall Poppy syndrome that discusses Pro Hart – Australia’s most commercially successful painter who also suffered a huge amount of public criticism was a victim of the syndrome.  He wasn’t celebrated, held up high as he would have been in other communities and countries, and I only hope now that he has passed away that there is some more appreciation for his art.  It is in this environment Angie has worked to establish herself as an artist.  She’s renowned and celebrated through – out the world but sometimes I think she could do with some more recognition from home!  
Classic Aussie culture also tends to favour the males … a culture of sheilas in the kitchen, and although it’s not still the 1950s I’m afraid we’re still a bit of a sexist society.  A woman branding a chainsaw is like something out of a fantasy … Lara Croft perhaps (scroll down on the link to see what I mean)?
I’m not saying that she hasn’t been appreciated … examples of her work are scattered throughout Victoria and the world … she has a number of public commission art pieces:
Albert Park , Arnsberg (Germany), Balwyn North, Carlton, Coburg, Corindhap (Vic), Guernsey Island (UK), Hastings, Horsham, Keilor, Lake Vyrnwy, Wales (UK), Moonee Ponds, Pakenham, Peak National Park (UK), Port Fairy, Richmond, Rye, Surry Hills, Warburton, Welshpool (UK), Winchester Bay, Oregon (USA), and Wonthaggi.  Not quite A –Z but then I know there’s some I’ve missed … I know for a start that there’s also a crocodile in German kindergarten that she made. But I guess you get the idea.
Dragon as part of an all-abilities playground, Packard St Reserve, Keilor Downs.

She’s the Aussie battler … artist style … sticking to her guns … I mean art, and producing what she wants (most of the time – she does do commissions remember).  This includes her “Cheesy Chicks” as she calls them.  Cheeky chicks are probably more like it to other people.  If you’re offended by sculptures of scantily clad women … then cover your eyes!  Seriously, if she’s not carving from nature, or an abstract, then it’s likely to be a cheesy chick.  They are cheeky, but then they’re meant to be.  I’ve heard them once compared to Robert Crumb’s cartoon women … and they do tend to be buxom … and she’s not afraid to expose a nipple or two!

Bug Girl and Helga check out the crowds at the Yarraville Festival

She has been travelling the world since 2001 and won numerous awards for her carving. Including being the first woman to take first in the Carve Carrbridge event in Scotland and many other top placings at other major chainsaw events.  She’s a member of Masters of the Chainsaw and Chainsaw Chix (the women’s division), two performance based groups of professional chainsaw sculptors. 
Some of Angie carvings under the watchful eyes of an admirer.

Angie has been particularly busy of late carving pieces for the exhibition in March.
Saraghi Art Space is a great area for her sculpture with the gallery being just off the garden courtyard for Café Lugano, and she will be exhibiting through out the courtyard and café as well.  I really can’t wait to see what she produces …


  1. That was a lovely story, blurp, I love my friend Angie, she has a huge heart, recognition is already here in USA, Aussie is in the making..

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your comment. I too love her. I hope to travel to the USA with her at some stage as I've heard so many stories ... hope Oz gives her the recognition she deserves.