Douglas Mackay

Montréal, Canada


Based in Montréal, Douglas Mackay’s woodworking practice centres around local trees, exacting craftsmanship and a sensitivity to wood as a material. He uses grain graphics – a wood’s colour, pattern and texture – to reveal the story of a tree’s inner life.

Since 2015 Douglas has run his own fine woodworking business specializing in commission based furniture, as well as the restoration of historic architectural details. He has exhibited furniture in Montréal as well as the United States, and completed projects in some of Canada’s oldest buildings, including National Historic Sites, public museums and private residences. In 2014, Douglas completed the Fine Woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods in California, after studying Heritage Conservation at Willowbank and History at Concordia University. Douglas is recognized as a professional artist by the Conseil des Métiers d’Art du Québec, and beginning in September 2018, will be teaching woodworking classes for the public at the École d’Ébénisterie d’Art de Montréal.

About the artwork

My woodworking practice uses traditional tools and techniques to consider the environmentaland therapeutic effects of local materials. Scientific research tells us that looking at a piece of wood can lower heart rate, blood pressure and the body’s response to stress. By revealing thediversity of colour, pattern and texture among local wood species, I question these findings and trace the story of a tree’s inner life.

Influenced by the Eastern philosophical underpinnings of abstract expressionism, my current work comprises a series of minimalist ‘paintings’ in wood, to suggest an inward looking experience. I’m interested in a subtractive process between painting and sculpture that uncovers and arranges repetitive visual planes from inside a tree. These images highlight moments of peacefulness and vulnerability, making visible the passage of time through annual rings and signs of struggle. I use these graphic gestures to confront the (im)permanence of our own experiences and the changing nature of loss and memory over time. This series is inspired my own sense of loss, particularly the death of my father when I was a young child. My only memories are artefacts from his life, among them scraps of wood and unfinished projects from his hobby workshop.

Each element of this is series is made from a species of tree local to the island of Montréal. Together they invite a personal and collective reflection on the procession of time.