Yorkshire is responsible for producing some fantastic artists over the years, including sculptor Henry Moore from Castleford, Wakefield born artist Barbara Hepworth and artist David Hockney who was born in Bradford. The recent opening of The Tetley as an art space, adding to Leeds City Art Gallery, The Henry Moore Institute and Wakefield’s Hepworth Gallery, as well as the many independent galleries situated around the county shows how, as a society, art is becoming more relevant to our lives. I recently spoke to local artist and sculptor Shane Green about his life and his extensive portfolio spanning more than 30 years.
Shane Green was brought up in Hunslet, South Leeds. He remembers enjoying drawing from an early age and had an excellent art teacher at school, who recognised his potential early on. He studied art in the 6th form and it was at this point he started to experiment with sculpture. Following school he attended Leeds College of Art and Design where he studied for a foundation degree before moving to Birmingham University to complete a degree in Fine Art. Returning to Leeds after University he enrolled at Leeds Metropolitan University and did a Masters. For over 20yrs Shane has been an art teacher and is Head of Art at Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley.
Whilst at University he strengthened his love for sculpture and got into traditional carving using stone and wood, liking to stay true to the materials. This was quite different to what everyone else was doing at art college in the 1980’s – the art produced during this decade was somewhat political in nature. He feels carving is his strongest medium, although he does not restrict himself to sculpture. His portfolio contains a prolific amount of sketches, various types of prints and paintings too. He got into chainsaw carving in particular while in Pennsylvania USA back in 1997. He was on a ‘job swap’ with a Fulbright Fellow, and in true American form was introduced to the chainsaw! He loves the immediacy of carving – depending on the scale of the work it can be completed in just a few days. I asked him how he plans his carvings – does he sketch an idea out and then draw cut lines on the wood with charcoal? He actually makes a maquette (miniature model) from clay or soap using a pen knife. It is then just a matter of up scaling the cuts and marks onto the much larger block of wood or stone he is using.
The last couple of years have been particularly good for Shane bringing him several commissions. He was commissioned to create a sculpture for Otley commemorating the Queens Jubilee and produced ‘The Three R’s: A Homage to the Wharfedale Press’. This was carved from a 2 ton slab of Yorkshire stone and measures 4x4x4ft. It was completed in 2012.
Another commission in 2012 was received from St Wilfred’s church in Calverley. Shane was asked to carve the remains of a 200yr old beech tree in the churchyard that had previously been damaged in a storm in 2011. Scaffolding was erected around the 40ft tree and within days of working away with his chainsaw the sculpture began to take shape. The result of this commission was the 30ft high ‘Calverley Angel’. Shane enjoyed the scale of this work and it is something he would like to investigate further in the future.
Otley Chevin sculpture trail is thanks to Shane Green too. Nine timber sculptures are dotted along a 2.5km route with each sculpture representing a different epoch of the Chevin’s history. The walk takes you back in time as you progress, starting with a cyclist and climber, and ending with a caveman. Eight stone carvings make up a 3km trail explaining the geology of the site.
‘Calamites: Still Life’
‘Chariot’ representing the Roman history
During the London Olympics 2012, Shane created seventeen wooden carvings which are situated in ten different London parks. The Olympic sculpture trail was not a commission but his own response to the Olympics. He carved a different sculpture each day representing the event that was on. Shane started with ‘Weightlifting’ in Central Park on the 21st July, and ended with ‘Marathon runner’ on 11th August which is in Mayesbrook Park. On his only day off he watched the Brownlee brothers and gave his hands a rest! This break to watch the brothers inspired the ‘Triathlon’ sculpture he created later at the European Chainsaw Carving Championships which was held in Warwickshire in September 2012. Bramhope council then purchased the sculpture to celebrate its most famous residents. Shane likes where the sculpture is placed – at the start of Jubilee Copse Park, near Leeds Road. He says “there is a lot of sport in the area and this is where a regular ‘cycling gang’ ride past.”
Shane takes inspiration from a lot of things. His paintings come from a desire to capture the landscape, weather, climate and changing seasons of Yorkshire – ‘Gods own Country’ as Shane says. With his sculpture he likes to study the human condition – focusing on emotions and family groups. At university he did a lot of work on and around adoption. This has changed and developed over the years. He is also influenced by Picasso – Shane likes the use of different materials and colours employed by Picasso. He says “Art is escapism and I don’t like to restrict myself”. I feel that Picasso’s influence is evident in some of Shane’s paintings with his bold use of colour.
Part of ‘The Giant Series’
Shane’s next project is to be based on the Tour de France. He will be creating a transportable stone sculpture along with paintings and sketches. He feels the work will result in a similar response to the Olympics. He also has other projects in pipeline that are not yet confirmed, but it is certain he is a busy man. When I asked Shane what the future holds for him he said there is still a lot he would like to do. He turns 50 next year and would like to focus more on his art work over the coming years, particularly wanting to create a stronger presence outside of Yorkshire, as commissions in different parts of the UK would be a great achievement for him. He wishes to further explore urban living and Leeds, with a new body of paintings as well as a proposal he is working on at the moment to produce a large scale chainsaw sculpture trail across Leeds parks. His hope for the future is that his creativity rubs off on his children and that they have a passion for art and sculpture.
Shane Green is clearly a very talented artist and sculptor, and I am in no doubt that he is a very valid addition to the rich and varied talent Leeds has produced over the years!
Shane Green art is in the Bono Gallery and Studio 7 both in Otley.
You can also visit yorkshirecarver.blogspot.com to see more of Shane Green’s work