Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Still Life of Shane Green

by Tom Swain 

What happens when an artist best known for his wood carvings is asked to put together an exhibition of hanging art for a local gallery? Tom Swain speaks to Shane Green to discuss the proposition.

Shane Green is an art teacher at Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley, but is probably better known for his substantial wood carvings that can be seen all over the Chevin. He is described by some as a local legend, but a collection of brand new artwork is something a bit different.

For the month of May, Shane is displaying his new collection at The Old Grammar School Gallery in Otley.

The collection is made up of paintings created specifically for the exhibition, entitled The Still Life and Other Stories, and features abstract, cubist and colourist influences.

Shane said: “The pieces are pretty traditional, but there’s other stuff like poetic lyrical dreams, and escapism.”

He explained: “These paintings are influences by the first set of abstract artists really. There are references to the cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and some of the dreamscapes are influenced by Marc Chagall and Franz Marc.”

The exhibition features a lot of traditional still life work, but with an interesting subversion of expectation and perception. Many pieces focus on still life, but through the lens of a particular hue, and a particular angle of view.

Shane said: “I’ve taken the idea of still life, but revisited it with child’s eyes.

“I’ve played with the idea of scale and the magic of objects and lightings and how certain objects can, with a twist or turn of the hand, take on new characteristics.”

In a number of the pieces on display, Shane has looked at the same scene but from different perspectives.

He explained: “It’s like pulling the rug from under your feet, to make you feel like you’re falling, so the viewpoint is always changing.

“Quite a lot of contemporary art is premeditated, and the artist works in reverse. This exhibition, and how I’ve always worked, is a minute-by-minute dialogue with the material in front of me.

“I think the looseness of these pieces, the incompleteness, is because I can’t stand still with them, I jump around while I work. But I think the incompleteness invites people to finish the piece themselves, and trigger their imagination. Connotations are hovering in the background.”

But since Shane’s carvings are what he’s best known for, how will people react to him working with a different medium? The wooden carvings are robust and rigid, whereas the paintings in Shane’s exhibition are free-flowing and dynamic.

Shane explained: “I think there will be general surprise at this exhibition, because the general public have seen what I’ve done on the Chevin.”

But Shane remains self-aware, pointing out the fact that his works might not be the complete package.

Shane said: “I feel they’re a bit unusual – people might ask ‘what’s the purpose of them, what’s the meaning?’ If one of my students did this, I’d say ‘it’s not enough, what’s the political context, what’s the social context?’”

Zack Whitehead, gallery manager at The Old Grammar School, is excited to be hosting such a renowned artist, and in only the fifth month of being open.

He said: “He’s the biggest artist we’ve dealt with, he’s so well known, and I’m sure lots of people will come and see this exhibition out of curiosity.”

But exhibiting Shane’s work does represent a departure from the norm for Zack.

“It’s interesting because everything else we’ve had here at TOGS is what I like and what I would choose, but I’ve not really had a say on what Shane has done for this exhibition.”

Another aspect to the story is that Zack was once a student of Shane’s art department at Prince Henry’s Grammar School, and it is interesting that the two should meet again in this new artistic capacity.

Visit for more information on The Old Grammar School Gallery. Shane Green’s exhibition The Still Life and Other Stories runs until May 31.

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