Unfolding proposal – Collaboration with Nichola Shanley

In Handshake 1 I worked with Swedish jeweller Hanna Hedman. She was unavailable for this project, so when it came to applying for HS3 I decided to approach someone a bit closer to home to work with for the collaboration.

I asked a few friends and colleagues for suggestions, looking to find someone who was not in the field of jewellery and who I was not already too familiar with, eventually getting onto Christchurch based artist Nichola Shanley.

Nichola Shanley

Nicholas training is in drawing and printmaking, but her current medium is primarily ceramics. She makes human scale, figurative, domestic and sculptural objects that have an unsettling familiarity, with esoteric, archaic and mythological qualities.

I remember seeing her work here in Dunedin (at Brett McDowell Gallery) and having quite a strong gut reaction, so although we had never met I was very intrigued to approach Nichola for this project.

At the time of the application for HS3, we were very much still in the initial stages of contact. Nichola and I had emailed, had a phone call, and were negotiating one another through the two and fro of ideas and suggestions. Reflecting this, the proposal I put together for the collaboration was quite open and (as you can see courtesy of Hilde de Dekers’ handwritten questions) left plenty of room for development to take place.

collaboration proposal image

At the work shop ‘On collaboration’ with Hilde De Deker there was lots of discussion about the nature of collaboration and what it really means – how can it meaningfully operate within an artistic context (as intelligently discussed here in a recent post by Sarah Walker-Holt )?

I could easily devote a whole post to this question, but this is also something I think we as a group are aiming to explore in our next exhibition. For my own piece of mind in the meantime, I’m working around the simple idea of collaboration as an ‘act of shared creation or discovery.’

Since the application, Nichola and I have quietly kept working away and communicating with one another. Our conversations went from swapping literal ideas to more abstract stories, and it wasn’t long before we both realized there we had some interesting material in our hands already.

So, interestingly enough, the proposal I put together initially does actually allude to blueprint we have now settled on for the Objectspace show. Under the the umbrella of an exhibition that is about collaboration, Nichola and I have decided to explore new territory together and create a kind of document – one that charts this space of getting to know and work with one another. The underlying thread is of fragments pieced together, and it will include exchanges of words, images, ideas, and experiments – not looking definitively for a jewellery or object based outcomes but exploring the framework/internal logic that goes on behind it.

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