“I have sought a voice for my own pain. These objects are my body”
The emotional, emotive and intensely personal ceramic works created by artist Virginia Leonard are powerful self-portraits that address her bodily scarring and experiences of chronic pain - the result of injuries obtained in a serious motorbike accident in London in 1986, which left her hospitalised for two years.
The maturity of these works belies the fact that Leonard only began working with clay in 2013. However her ceramic practice has followed a successful painting career in her native New Zealand and her painterly approach is evident in her current work in which she moves clay as she would have moved paint on a canvas, making the material gestural as she builds her constructions. Chronic pain has no biological value, modern medicine cannot reliably treat it. It lacks both language and voice.
For Leonard the language of the clay making is an attempt to rid her body of trauma and reduce her level of chronic pain. Clay is visceral, oozy and clumpy. It resembles bodily scarring but is also a precarious medium, which serves as a reminder of the fragility of her body.
Leonard’s recent ceramic works evolve from a process of stacking, in which the artist piles random individual pieces on top of one another, a methodology she refers to as “building precarious towers resembling my human form”.
Virginia Leonard lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand