Wanaka based sculptor, Joshua Olley, is never happier than scouring among the foothills of the Southern Alps among rocks, scree, ice and snow. It’s here that he finds his inspiration and, hopefully, the medium which will be used for his next sculpture.
Exhibiting at NZ Sculpture OnShore for the third time in 2018, Joshua will be creating a large piece using a stone found only in this region. His piece for NZ Sculpture onShore is a strong fit with Women’s Refuge, the main beneficiary of the event and a cause that he personally relates to from his childhood. “I want to speak out against domestic violence,” he explains. “The hands I sculpt are so big and heavy, it reflects a strong hand but actually the hand is doing something gentle and wise rather than aggressive.”
Growing up in the 70's, Joshua says he and his brother were sometimes woken to the sound of physical abuse, arguing and shouting. “As a kid, that’s the worst thing in the world to hear in the middle of the night in your own home – your supposedly safe place,” he says. “My brother and I learnt to stand up against this from a young age, around 10 years old, and since then I have felt strongly that we all have to do something about domestic violence. Whether the abuse is psychological or physical, it is equally traumatic. For me, part of being an artist is a means of standing up against things I feel are wrong in humanity,” he adds.
Joshua moved to Wanaka in 1995, drawn there because of the stunning scenery. He and his wife have three daughters, aged 14, 12 and 8, and feel lucky to live among such beauty. As a sculptor, Joshua has become an expert in the types of stone in this region. Glacial erratic stone occurs when it breaks off from mountains and is carried downhill by a glacier, which then melts at the end of an ice age exposing the stone. “It’s as if the stone has been floated down a river and this river then disappears,” Joshua explains. “They are called erratics because you don’t know where you are going to find them. The glacier has acted like a screen, because the weak rocks would have broken up with all the ice activity but the ones I am finding are extremely hard.”
Joshua has found half a dozen of these stones called Piemontite ranging in weight from about one ton up to eight tonnes. They have a stunning depth of colour, a deep purple tone and a unique, almost wood-like grain. “I love working with this medium because it is has metamorphosed into such a beautiful, strong and resilient rock,” says Joshua.
“My environment here is snow and glaciers, and my backdrop is the Mount Aspiring National Park. I love seeing my work at NZ Sculpture OnShore because the stone looks so exotic there. It’s like experiencing the weightiness of the Southern Alps against the backdrop of ocean colours and a volcano. It is such a dramatic contrast of mediums,” he says.
Currently working on his piece for NZ Sculpture onShore, Joshua says he allows about five months to complete the work. “This piemontite is harder than granite or marble, so the only way I can break it down is using an angle grinder with diamond blades. It is a huge amount of work, but has a stunning finish because it is so hard and strong,” he explains.
Joshua says he feels a strong commitment to NZ Sculpture OnShore. “There are other shows where I can exhibit my work, but because this raises funds for Women’s Refuge, it has a very strong ethical fit with my art. There is also wonderful community support among the volunteers and artists, that it’s a very rewarding event.”
NZ Sculpture OnShore is a national biennial event presented at the spectacular Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve on Auckland’s North Shore. It is one of the largest supporters of Women’s Refuge NZ and has donated over $1.7 million since its’ inception, helping women and children access safe places to stay, counselling and wrap around services. NZ Sculpture OnShore is grateful for the generous support of its sponsors, including Hesketh Henry, Harcourts Cooper & Co and Fisher Funds.