For many years I have been coveting a hanging candelabra at my friends’ Gatineau Hills cottage. The candelabra is made of twisted steel rods configured to look like tree branches and suspended from the ceiling above the dining room table. The cottage has no electricity so the candles are burning regularly.
The candelabra is the work of Wakefield blacksmith Michael Kinghorn. His custom-made candelabra, railings, staircases, and other architectural ornamentation can be found in many homes on both sides of the Ottawa River.
I only learned recently that Kinghorn also creates sculptures and drawings. He has won a few competitions to create metal sculptures for two Ottawa fire halls and is currently starring in two art exhibitions.
One exhibition is at Cube Gallery in Hintonburg. The show is called Heads Up. It contains portraits, both unusual and traditional, by several artists and will be on until Feb. 3. Kinghorn’s contribution involves anthropomorphic looking contraptions of found objects encased in metal.
A far more dazzling display of Kinghorn’s art can be found at his solo show called Transition at Espace Pierre-Debain in the Centre culturel du Vieux-Aylmer (120 rue Principale) in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau. This exhibition of imaginative recycling and blacksmithing runs until Feb. 24.
Transition includes more of Kinghorn’s robot-like sculptures (and drawings of similar looking humanoids), miniature space capsules tightly packed with brightly coloured cast-off objects from earth, and — my favourite — metal sculptures incorporated into glass and metal coffee tables. One of the works called “Creature” includes such a coffee table enclosing a splendid, albeit slightly menacing, squid-like steel creature. I instantly decided that I prefer “Creature” to my friends’ candelabra.
Kinghorn explains his love of found objects in the artist’s statement on his website:
“In 1987 I began making quirky found object sculptures from items collected at Lesley Spit in Toronto, a landfill site and bird sanctuary along the shore of Lake Ontario,” Kinghorn writes. “The first time I came across this place it was like opening a treasure chest of jewels — objects of all colours and shapes glowing in the sunlight. The ‘fill’ is a combination of glass, broken car and machinery parts, stainless steel kitchen utensils, fragments of tumbled glass, copper wire, weird pieces of rubber, plastic, and rounded bricks, stones and bones. All of these items have been tumbled smooth and polished for years by Lake Ontario and the majority of them are no bigger than the palm of my hand. I assembled these items into sculptures using nuts and bolts, epoxies, wire, rivets and silicone.”
More recently, Kinghorn has also been finding small cast-off parts of farm machinery in the Outaouais and incorporating them into his sculptures. Like all good artists, Kinghorn is constantly evolving. I look forward to what direction he will take next.