A Cut Above: Ross Mann

“Why sculpt with a chainsaw?” I asked Ross Mann, to which he quite reasonably replied, “Why not? I’ve got all the power tools and I’m comfortable using them, so it made sense to use them for my sculptures. You can get quite a fine finish with the chainsaw, but I also use a “grinding disk and sander for some parts, and I finished the face with a chisel.”

Ross’s latest work – his interpretation of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ – is an enormous, rugby-gear-wearing warrior, carved from a huge eucalyptus log. “I call him Dave because he is a Kiwi after all,” Ross tells me. Dave is currently resident at the airport at Onerahi (Whangarei) where he can be seen for the duration of the Rugby World Cup. He will then move on to the Whangarei Quarry Gardens exhibition in November and Ross is hopeful Dave will put in an appearance at Sheepworld before the end of the year.

Ross is a carpenter with a passion for the arts and a member of the Mahurangi Artist Network. Besides being a chainsaw sculptor, he also dabbles in painting, furniture-making and creating artworks from found and recycled materials. “I like to make things from demolition and debris off the beach. I put the kayak in the water, go around the coast and collect interesting bits of wood and other flotsam. I demolished an old kauri church in Maungaturoto around 25 years ago and I still have bits of that I’m using to make furniture.”

Ross’s current passion is sculpting full-size human figures out of large logs. “It’s very demanding,” he explains. “One sculpture started as a four tonne log and now it’s down to about a quarter of a tonne. I might have an idea of what I would like to make but I’m governed by what the log will allow. I have to remove 80% of it to find what’s in there.”

Ross has recently had some success with a run of possums sculpted with his chainsaw from blocks of wood. “People can buy them and put them in a tree outside,” he laughs. “I stain them so they are durable and weather-protected.”

When the chainsaw phase passes, Ross has other artistic pursuits in mind. “I’m very keen on trying out other avenues like woodcutting, lino cutting, sketching and painting. I’ve got a lot of materials to use and I’m quite strict about using up what I’ve got.”

If you would like to see some more of Ross’s work, he has three full-size human forms at Sheepworld and, who knows, Dave might just turn up there soon.

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Susannah Marshall