Nichola Shanley

Nichola Shanley completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at ASA in association with AIT in 1995 and 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 as an artist and teacher has segued over the years from a printmaking and drawing focus to one of working with clay. Shanley currently works from her home in Lyttelton.


Vestiges of people, gesture, sound, material evidence, something which remains after the original has been destroyed, hand held, dug out of the ground, still in the sack they were drowned in, serious or accidental survivors. Pitted fused bone, human remains, pyres, funerary urns, objects necessary for the afterlife, rejoicing relics, narrative traditions.


Grounded in my immediate landscape of Lyttelton Harbour my work occupies the space between the boundaries of past and present, mythic and domestic and acts as a kind of archaeological dig into the literature, myths, geology, sorcery and history of the area. My background is in printmaking and drawing but my chosen medium is clay. We are close to clay, and understand it like flesh and water; mud and water, held together by heat and the sheer force of will.

My work is domestic in scale and often utilises familiar shapes such as vases, jugs and candle holders that are bounded by detail and use chance, mistake and imperfection to make tangible ideas and histories. Pagan/Catholic symbolism offers the background noise to my work and I use clay as a kind of conduit to retrieve submerged memories from past lives, and insights into my own instinct and intuition.

Souls dwelling in a physical presence that reflect articles from a ritualistic burning or burial ground, the process of drawing on to clay; from two dimensions to three dimensions; like a printmaking process, a sensual pulling of the form out of the darkness, unmade mass realised. 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.