Seaham sculptor’s creation is proper Pukka

Art teacher Phiilippa Coad, sculptor David Gross and director of creative industries Paul Wheatcroft.

Art teacher Phiilippa Coad, sculptor David Gross and director of creative industries Paul Wheatcroft.

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NEW artwork is proving a little bit wooden at a college.

A two-metre high wooden sculpture, Pukka, a carved hand, has been created by Seaham-based sculptor David Gross and put on display at East Durham College in Peterlee.

The 51-year-old artist is known for his large creations made out of chainsawed wood, ice and snow – such as six of the carved sculptures in Chopwell Wood, Gateshead, and the Port of Tyne Whirligig, which is a large, wind-driven sculpture outside The Port of Tyne Offices in South Shields.

At the unveiling of the East Durham College artwork, David said: “I believe it’s important that sculptures in public places should be meaningful and engaging to the people who see them every day, not just admired by the odd few with a special interest in art.”

The artwork is one of seven pieces in a series of hands. Pukka was made from a laburnum tree, which fell during heavy snow in Peterlee in 2009, and visually signifies the slang word “pukka” – well used by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

David said: “The large carved hands I create are a celebration of manual work, and of ingenuity, as well as an investigation into forms of non-verbal communication.

“Tool marks from the chainsaw, chisel and grinder create a weather-beaten surface that sometimes belies the hand’s signal. Knots and cracks in the wood become scars and calluses.”

The artwork has gone on display as a prelude to a full exhibition that the East Durham Artists’ Network (Edan) plans to hold at the college.

Paul Wheatcroft, director of Creative Industries at East Durham College, said: “We hope to display all of David’s carvings in the atrium as part of the Edan exhibition.

“Also our art students will also be working with wood for the first time, so I felt exhibiting Pukka would be a great way to excite and inspire them when they come to use this wonderful material.”