Art

Set in Stone

Written by Jenny McLeod

Making the shift from stonemasonry to sculpture art was a huge leap of faith for Shane Woolridge but one which now sees him recognised as one of New Zealand’s most innovative artists.

Originally from the U.K. Shane spent over 30 years working  as a stonemason but it was not until his arrival in  Queenstown , where he fell in love with the Central Otago schist and slate, that he put his artistic inspiration to the test.

“ I began playing around with ideas several years ago as I have always been fascinated with forms. I initially experimented with shaping schist to create large installations that are expertly engineered. My original art was actually stone balancing which is easy, quick and satisfying.”

His first serious commission came in 2008 with the Split Apple, created for a local collector.

“This required four months of intense high-quality work with a demanding design to push the boundaries of convention and bend the stone into its organic form,” he says.

With the completion of the sculpture the word was out and numerous commissions for both landscape art and smaller works, many polished stone, followed with buyers coming from Europe and Australia and throughout New Zealand.

A full-time artist for the past eight years Shane uses a range of materials besides schist and slate – including timber, copper, brass and even bronze. One of his signature bronze pieces is The Witness exhibited in Queenstown’s Aurum Gallery.

His landscape sculptures are distinctive and the relationship of each piece with the environment is key for him.

The well-known slate and schist Missing Link was originally exhibited at Wanaka’s Rippon Vineyard and now resides on a property in Scotland.  His largest and most significant piece  is the public commission Thru Link to Peak installed on the Kelvin Heights loop walkway near Queenstown.

“I always knew it would be an important public work and I get a massive amount of feedback about it.”

Shane’s commissioned sculpture for the recently opened Dunedin Peace Park focusing on  prominent conscientious objector Archibald Baxter is a collaboration with Baxter Design of Queenstown, who designed the memorial.

“The sculpture is central to the pacifist memorial and I believe it is a very significant piece of work and I hope it gets the attention it deserves as a place of reflection.” 

It may well have been a leap of faith for Shane to become a full-time artist but his view is “ you have to take risks to win. If it’s something you want to do you should chase it. After all a life without passion is no life at all”.

Pure Gold

Queenstown’s Aurum Gallery has a select showing of highly acclaimed representational artwork including exhibits by Shane Woolridge, its most successful contributing artist.

The contemporary realism art gallery at Arthurs Point combines as a framing studio and owner Dave Marsh is New Zealand’s only Master Certified Picture Framer.

He is renowned for his framing expertise and people all over the world courier their unframed art and discuss framing options by video link.

“Many of my national and international clients have lived in Queenstown or visited the resort and know my work while others have heard about the gallery by word of mouth,” says Dave. “I ensure the highest possible standard of framing so the work is correctly preserved to last as long as is humanly possible.”

Aurum Gallery is a small, inviting space and ideally suited to exhibiting Shane Woolridge’s work.

“Our friendship spans 25 years and I have huge admiration for his natural skills particularly with stone,” says Dave. ”His work is quite unique and very recognisable.”

Aurum is one of just two galleries worldwide to hang the works of Brisbane based Living Master Gordon Hanley.

“Gordon produces works in precious metals that are without equal,” says Dave. “This 600-year-old Renaissance art form, known as metalpoint, is the art of drawing with a metal stylus onto a prepared surface and Gordon has progressed this delicate medium, usually in pure 24ct gold, to levels never previously achieved.”

About the author

Jenny McLeod