Stuart Griffiths has been working in the margins that exist between rural and urban life for his working life in New Zealand as an artist, craftsperson and contractor. The practice that has developed from this pursuit has enabled him to establish an entity that he refers to as being a ‘monumental sculptor’. This is not in the traditional sense of this title, although he has done restoration stone carving work on buildings such as Knox Church and the Glenroy Centre in Dunedin, as well as subcontracting to and co- directing a monumental masonry business.
Naturally, the practical experience of doing this type of monumental work does inform this monumental sculptural practice and fuses seamlessly with an art
career that started with graduating from the University of
Canterbury School of Fine Arts, majoring in Sculpture,
Image courtesy of Stuart Griffiths.
with a minor in Art Education, to the beginnings of a public sculptural practice that started where an earth work was constructed on a vacant plot of land in Masterton in 1979 where the Hansells’s New Zealand Sculpture Exhibition was held. This sculpture practice over the next 10 years had him working in many galleries and exhibitions throughout New Zealand, Australia and the UK. As this sculptural practice was essentially a site-specific practice that was invariably engaged in working in public spaces, an interest developed in making art in civic spaces, which resulted in him being commissioned to work on public art projects such as the Queenstown water front development, the Dunedin Botanic Gardens Entranceway redevelopment, as well as installing stand-alone sculptures such as the ‘Inside Outlook’ sculpture in the Christchurch Botanic Garden. With the formalising of the commissioning of these types of projects from being ad-hoc arrangements to being in line with Civic public art policy, he has been actively engaged with assisting, and petitioning Councils with the formation of these policies in the communities where he has lived in the Otago and Canterbury regions, in the pursuit of quality outcomes through delivering transparent and quality processes. A parallel life as a contemporary craftsman stonemason has been woven into this practice throughout the development of this monumental sculpture practice, and has had him engaged on many landscape projects where gardens and architectural feature work have been commissioned and built, and in some instances artworks in their own right installed. This knowledge gained, in what has been described as the renaissance of stone work in the Otago region of which he has been a leader in the field, has lead him to having a consultancy practice that works on civic and private restoration projects in design teams where interpretative design and masonry work is needed to be done.
He has lectured in sculpture at the University of Canterbury and Otago Polytech art schools drawing from his experience as a practitioner and interest in art education, he continues this work with mentoring initiatives in the community. The nature of his practice, that engages project management and curatorial skills have come together from time to time over the last 40 years, and has had him actively involved in curatorial work, exhibitions and publishing locally and nationally. This curatorial work has by and large developed as an activity that exists outside of institutional controls, where practice can be participated in without the constraints that an institution needs to adhere to and where an individual is not compromised.