Paul Kay exhibition: Rhythm and Hues

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Above: Paul Kay, Together, 570 x 310 x 56mm, Malaysian jelutong, acrylic paints, clear polyurethane

What happens when an engineering patternmaker uses wood as a medium for creating art? Paul Kay has been an engineering patternmaker for 50 years as well as a model maker, furniture maker, miniature confectionery tooling sculptor and woodcarver. ‘My father was an engineering patternmaker and my grandfather was a carpenter. There must be a bit of wood dust flowing around in the blood!’, exclaimed Paul.

Recently, Paul has created a body of work for Rhythm and Hues – Syncopation in Wood, his second exhibition organised with art gallery director Frances Keevil. Each sculptural relief is made from a single piece of semi-softwood, created using a reductive technique, hand machined and finished. ‘Colour, form and shadow are an integral part in conveying thoughts and emotions’, said Paul.


Above: Depths are determined from a full scale sketch of the design transferred to the surface of a single piece of jelutong.

‘All my artworks commence as a small sketch, followed by an enlarged full size sketch’, explained Paul. ‘That’s when I dimension all lines and curves. I have a collection of handmade plywood radius templates from R25mm to R15,000 that was produced over several decades. A timber block is prepared onto which the entire full size drawing is transferred in pencil to the top surface. Depths are then determined from the design. Wood grain direction is a consideration.

‘All machining is done in many stages on an end milling machine using high speed steel end milling cutters and roughing out with Forstner bits. Most curves are finished by hand using crank gouges whilst all tight internal vertical corners are finished by hand with chisels. Abrasive papers produce the surface that I require. It is a nerve-racking process with decisions requiring conviction and thought. I prefer using a reductive technique commencing from the deepest level.’


Community, 355 x 307 x 50mm, Malaysian jelutong, acrylic paints, sealed with clear polyurethane.

Paul cites inspiration from early to mid-20th century modernist painters including Ben Nicholson, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Picasso and Frank Hinder and sculptors such as Archipenko, Calder, David Smith, Moore, Lipchitz and Hepworth as well as the influence of sculptors from ancient civilisations.

The full impact of these wall sculptures can be best appreciated in situ at Studio W, 6 Bourke Street, Wooloomooloo, Sydney from June 1–19, 2022. Images of the complete exhibition can be viewed on the Frances Keevil website at

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