The Narrative Beauty of Wood

Contemporary art history often focuses on the narrative of art above that of materials and making, which tend to be positioned into the arena of 'craft'. Over the centuries, however, an artist or maker's choice of material has often borne a direct connection to the meaning and execution of a work and, in overlooking the significance of this choice, the viewer stands to miss part of the interpretation. This panel discussion explores the rich narrative contained within the varied properties of wood and the importance of understanding the process of making.

Richard Coles, Antique Dealer and Masterpiece London exhibitor
Sarah Myerscough, Gallerist and Masterpiece London exhibitor
Tom Palmer, Director & Head of Furniture & Projects, Plowden & Smith
Ada de Wit, Curator of Works of Art and Sculpture, The Wallace Collection

Moderator: Dr Megan Aldrich, Independent Scholar and Editor of the journal Furniture History

Richard Coles, Director, Godson & Coles
Richard Coles, Director of Godson & Coles has worked in the art and antiques business for over thirty years. Having first trained at West Dean College in the late 1970s, he then went into partnership with Richard Godson; their first gallery in the Kings Road. In 1998, Godson & Coles relocated to its current premises at 92 Fulham Road in South Kensington. Richard has served on numerous antique fair vetting committees over the years, including the Grosvenor House Art and Antique Fair, the Olympia International Art Fair and is currently serving on the Masterpiece Fair and British Antique Dealer’s Association Art Fair furniture vetting committees. Richard is on the council for the BADA and has also been Chairman of the Fair for many years. He is also an assessor on the antique furniture restoration course at West Dean College. Richard is the design eye behind the pairing of modern art with antique furniture that makes Godson & Coles unique. He works closely with interiors designers, private collectors and museums around the word.

Sarah Myerscough, Director, Sarah Myerscough Gallery
Established in 1998, Sarah Myerscough Gallery represents a distinguished group of contemporary craft and design artists, specialising in material-led processes with a focus on wood. The gallery works in both public and private collections, maintains a full programme of exhibitions and participates in leading art fairs around the world. Sarah Myerscough Gallery represents international artist-designer- makers, whose practices are grounded in craft-making traditions, yet are defined by contemporary innovation and invention. The works celebrate the dialogue between history and future, hand and technology, form and function. The gallery’s aesthetic is centred on material-led processes and relishes the connection to the natural world: organic material and form, with a focus on wood. It embraces the elemental and the imperfect and seeks creative authenticity and integrity, indulging in tactility and sensory experiences, which inform each object and unique sculptural furniture piece.

Tom Palmer, Director & Head of Furniture and Projects, Plowden & Smith
Tom Palmer trained as a furniture restorer at the prestigious West Dean College near Chichester, and has over 28 years’ experience restoring a wide range of wooden furniture and artefacts, ranging from early English oak to contemporary Plywood. In his current role Tom also oversees a number of Plowden & Smith’s larger restoration projects, many of which involve wood; including the 2019-2020 restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kaufmann Office for the V&A Museum, the Grinling Gibbons carvings on the organ case at St Paul’s Cathedral, the George Gilbert Scott designed interior of Kings College Chapel on the Strand, and the PMSA award nominated restoration of Edouardo Paolozzi’s monumental ‘London to Paris’ sculpture for the CASS Sculpture Foundation.

Ada de Wit, Curator of Works of Art & Sculpture, Wallace Collection
Ada de Wit is the Curator of Works of Art and Sculpture at the Wallace Collection. She is also a trustee of the Grinling Gibbons Society. Her book 'Grinling Gibbons and the Golden Age of Woodcarving. The Netherlands and Britain, 1650-1700' will be published later this year.

Dr Megan Aldrich, Independent Scholar and Editor of the journal Furniture History
Megan Aldrich began her career in the Department of Furniture and Woodwork of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Having been formerly Academic Director of Sotheby's Institute of Art in London and Adjunct Professor at Richmond University, she lectures part-time in the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University and is editor of the journal Furniture History.  She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
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