Virginia Leonard

Ceramic, lustre and resin
1100mm x 400mm x 400mm


Virginia Leonard's evocative ceramics shift between alien landscapes and honest self-portraits, addressing her experiences of chronic pain and bodily scarring.

"I have sought a voice for my own pain. These objects are my body".

In 1986, Virginia had a serious motorbike accident in London. This terrible accident put Leonard in hospital for two years and "changed and formed" the artist, simultaneously impacting on her in a positive and negative way.

Following a successful painting career in New Zealand, Leonard started working with clay in 2013. She says, "The transition grew from my need to address my bodily issues. Clay became more visceral and bodily. It was oozy and clumpy. It resembled my scarred and jagged leg. It is also a precarious medium. You don't know if the work is going to survive the high temperatures of the kiln. This reminded me of the fragility of my body".

Leonard's original and innovative work in clay is driven by the tactile and material possibilities of clay for expressing and connecting with her body and chronic pain. Her most recent work involves stacking a number of pieces on top of one another.

The artist refers to this technique as "building precarious towers resembling my human form, layering the work and stacking the work also references surgery and the ability to hide my bodily scarring. The more I assemble the more there is to look at which takes the viewers eyes away from the ugly bits".

Leonard is interested in pushing the clay and glazes beyond their limits, which is a crucial  part of her process, pushing the work to within an inch of cracking, splitting or collapse and  breaking point.

Created through an innovative and experimental approach, Leonard tears, cuts, stacks and affixes additional extrusions to create texture and volume in her work. She is driven by the tactile and material possibilities of clay for expressing and connecting with her body.

The finished work accentuates and visually records each gesture and moment of her process. Referencing the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, the resulting aesthetic is a three dimensional interpretation of a Max Ernst landscape painting. By juxtaposing the austere geometry of the steel plinth against the texturally lavish forms and sited in the context of the non-hierarchical native bush, Leonard explores the balance and dissonance between ornamental surfaces, objects and support systems.