Nichola Shanley presents a collection of new ceramic works using hand – molded techniques and glazed surfaces. Occupying a space between the boundaries of human and animal, past and present, mythic symbology and domestic objects, many of Shanley’s works appear like decorated vessels from an early time. The challenge to the viewer is how to decipher these mysterious objects in a technological age. Rather than embracing contemporary art practices Shanley is drawn to the unscientific and invites the viewer to enter her world of memories and intuition. She likes shrines and grottos, ancestral spirits and funerary urns and all these themes haunt her enigmatic ceramics. The repetitive indentations, which engulf the surfaces in her work, appear obsessional, which belies the physical nature of each form, a process that creates an important tension between legibility and illegibility.
Artist and curator Grant Bambury explains this ‘physicality’ in her work as early as 2014. “Her intuitive desire to make objects that embody an afterlife and transfer inner thoughts and feelings into tangible objects for our contemplation is the hallmark to her practice. “I have become more convinced by artefacts than contemporary art” she states, and with these words asks viewers to enter her world of memories and intuitions.’
Shanley describes her methodology in somewhat ‘physical’ terms also. “When I draw on paper it is a horizontal act like sea water entering a harbour. When I work with clay the motion is vertical. Dipping into an only just seen hole in the ground: dip, retrieve, retreat, dipping deeper each time. We are like clay, flesh and water / mud and water both held together by heat and force of will”
Nichola Shanley completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at ASA in association with AIT in 1995 where she majored in Printmaking. She moved to Dunedin in the mid 90’s with her sister Amanda Shanley who was studying ceramics at Otago Polytechnic. Her practice evolved from her preoccupation with printmaking and drawing as an artist and teacher to a more recent focus with clay. Her interest grew after following her sister’s and peers’ practices and finally after 20 years of resisting she began her foray into ceramics. Shanley currently works from her home in Lyttelton.