Virginia Leonard’s works are an extension of her body, with her movements and her thoughts embedded within their surfaces. Her forms, often large, intricate and ungainly, suggest a highly active, if not exhausting, physical process of making. In these laborious, decadent creations, Leonard adds, subtracts, caresses, and pummels clay before adding deliciously viscous resins and precious metal lustres. The resulting sculptures express a present-moment awareness, stemming from the artist’s actions and how she feels on any given day.
In the late 1980s the artist was in a serious road accident from which she still suffers and she draws on clay to articulate the subsequent limitations on her body. Works are titled remembering the raw reality of her experiences, from Stained Bandage, to Pain Has Made It Impossible to Access Beauty Walking Through a Museum. What is striking, however, is the almost fantastical nature of the resulting works. Moving through pain can be empowering; the works an embodiment of the glory and gore of a life rich in experience. As humans, we cannot avoid pain, it is essential to our survival. Yet it is how we learn from and can harness our pain that makes us more than a victim to it.
In So No One Will See Me Walk to Deny Me Grace, a number of works appear as cavernous vessels, sometimes with lids. The artist takes care to not abandon their interiors, even if they may be rarely seen. Some are laced with golden tendrils in clusters on their inner linings, others are slathered with the textures of resin. Just as the human body does, the inside and outside of her objects are connected as one entity, always referencing their opposite. Opposition, or the contrary, is an integral part of Leonard’s practice. Her works stand proudly apart from the flawless forms so often anticipated in traditional ceramic craft. Asymmetry; fragility; these works are raw expressions from the artists core that do not cure her pain but highlight the beauty of what can be found within it.
Virginia Leonard has exhibited globally and in 2021 was awarded the prestigious Italian Officine Saffi Award 4. Gow Langsford Gallery has represented her since 2020.