18 January 2023

The Secret Poet: Shane Woolridge

The Secret Poet: Shane Woolridge

An interview with Arrowtown Sculptor Shane Woolridge who is showing his work 'Until the Last Drop' from 5 December 2022 - 24 January 2023.

Shane Woolridge is an Arrowtown based sculptor has created Until the Last Drop, 2021 as a local response to SHELF-LIFE. Working with his signature form, a drop of water, he explores a new material recycled rubbish. Gathering various recycled elements that have been consumed and discarded he has meticulously constructed an almost perfect form. Until the Last Drop carries messages unwritten encouraging us to reflect on how and what we use and also literally written using the labels of the found objects.

Shane is an Arrowtown based full-time sculptor. Primarily working in stone and bronze, his works are strong three-dimensional forms inspired by the landscape and found material. His work features in national and international collections. Director Olivia Egerton sat down with Shane to ask him a few questions about his practice.

Shane Woolridge in front of the foundations for 'Until the Last Drop'.

OE: Tell me about your journey to become a full-time artist?


SW: Laughing “I started there and I got here”.

I’ve always been a creative, I’ve always said that if I was to write a book I would call it the “SECRET POET”. I was a really troubled kid from a broken family but when I started writing poems it felt like I was diving head first into another world. I would always write poems when I was at home, I was too scared to tell my friends for fear of getting my head kicked in. That’s where the “Secret Poet” title came in. Then when I was 15/16 I got into playing guitar. My friend and I started a band and had some real success but as all good bands did in those times, we fell apart. From that point I started writing my own songs and playing my own stuff, it’s still something I love doing now.

At 32, I left England to come to Queenstown, I saw it as a getaway but as soon as I landed I felt more at home here than I did in England. It was the middle of winter when I arrived and immediately I was stunned by the Remarkables, they still act as an inspiration for a lot of my work. I had to figure out a way to stay here so I found work as a stone mason. At the time I was working on high-end houses, doing the work that they wanted me to do but I always wanted to find a way to do my own creations. So I made time to be creative. I dropped down to only working a couple days a week to make time for my own art and then 8 years ago, I said to my co-workers “this is the last house I’m doing” and I’ve been a practicing artist ever since.

OE: How did you go from The Wall to The Apple?


SW: For me concept is key. In regards to The Apple, I was interested in an every day form but an apple by itself didn’t have enough movement so I decided to create the drama by having a split form. There’s a great saying about sculpture that every single form in the world exists within a stone, you just have to know what to take off. From there, The Apple came in to being.


OE: Describe your fascination with various materials –how do you choose the materials you work with? What fascinates you about the different properties?


SW: The material always chooses me, when I’m searching for a new material I am always attracted to the interesting forms and colours. I try not to overthink anything so when it comes to materials I find one small element and watch as it takes shape from there.


OE: Where did you go searching for the stone?


SW: I’m always on the lookout, there is no one particular place.


OE: What informs your practice? How are you inspired to create or make a new work?


SW: I have a very simple approach, driven by a natural desire to keep searching for new ways to expose the beauty of the material.


OE: Where did the bronze come from?


SW: It was actually a client, who became my friend, that suggested bronze to me. I had created a piece for his home, a large stone bowl. It was an incredible piece of stone. I knew that I would never be able to recreate that work as it was a freak of nature but then he suggested “why don’t you take a silicone mould and do it in bronze?”. Now bronze is something I often work with. It allows me to immortalise the stone- a material that will outlive me.


OE: The drop of water is a signature form of yours – to date it has been made from stone – what inspired you to create this large 2.2 metre drop of plastic?  


SW: Creating the drop of water out of plastic was me scratching an itch that I’ve had for a long time. I was given the license to doit and out of that it has given me the confidence to approach any material. You just have to treat it a certain way and then you will find the rhythm to it.

OE: In contemplating the finished work, you speak about it being absolutely beautiful but also a disaster what message do you hope visitors will take away after viewing this work?


SW: It’s ironic, similar to Mandy Barker’s work, it’s an extremely attractive form from a distance but once you get closer you see there are lumps of plastic and recycled materials, it’s truly the ugly side of consumerism that we are all guilty of. I really don’t want the environment  to suffer, and I want people to feel that way too. We should be nature rather than ruining nature. Personally, I have no idea what the future holds but hopefully we can find the right solutions.

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