Virginia Leonard:
It Only Hurts When I Bend

October 20 – November 24, 2018
Center Gallery


It Only Hurts When I Bend

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
Carl Jung

The highly individual and evocative ceramics of Auckland artist Virginia Leonard are honest self-portraits that address her bodily scarring and experiences of chronic pain, injuries obtained in a serious motorbike accident in London in 1986. This event left Leonard hospitalized for two years and “changed and formed” the artist, which she recounts as having both a negative and positive impact. Confronting these issues, Leonard’s wonderfully experimental ceramic practice employs the flesh-like materiality and tactility of the medium, and the physical presence of the sculptural form, to forge a personal material vocabulary for her body’s scars and pain. As Leonard states, “chronic pain has no biological value. Modern medicine cannot reliably treat chronic pain. Chronic pain lacks both language and voice, the language of my clay making is my attempt to rid my body of trauma and reduce my level of chronic pain”. The results are unique, emotive; visually arresting ceramic works that stand like materialized acts of internal speech and sensation bursting forward in the fluidity and sloppiness of clay.

In It Only Hurts When I Bend, Virginia continues to pursue the narrative of explosive surface and towering forms. Rich gold metallic glaze meshes with oozing red and threads of pink and white. Vein like, pulsating and wholly visceral. Small diminutive sculptures provide a visual foil as they skew playful and inviting. The element of whimsy provides a sense of hopefulness. 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”. Important to the development of the work’s stature is not only that it’s life size but also that it’s confronting and that it’s positioned at eye level with the audience. Also as Leonard adds, “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 viewer’s eye away from the ugly bits”.

Mindy Solomon Gallery is the first United States venue to showcase a solo exhibition of Virginia Leonard’s work. Here incredible maturity as an artist and storyteller should resonate with anyone who has ever had to endure a painful emotional and physical process.

About Virginia Leonard

Virginia Leonard graduated with a MFA from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in 2001. Her recent projects include a solo exhibition at TwoRooms, Auckland (2018); new long-term installation, All I Want is a Face Lift, at Objectspace, Auckland (2018); Artgèneve, with Taste Contemporary, Geneva (2018); Melbourne Art Fair (2018) and Auckland Art Fair (2018), both with PAULNACHE gallery; participation in Installation Contemporary, Carriageworks, as part of Sydney Contemporary (2017); and The Effects of Crack, Objectspace (2014).

Leonard has an extensive international exhibition history. Her forthcoming exhibition, It Only Hurts When I Bend Over will open at Mindy Solomon Gallery, Miami, later this year.

In 2019, Leonard has numerous engagements, including participating in Tresor Contemporary, Basel, and Artgèneve, Geneva, Switzerland, both with Taste Contemporary Gallery. She will also exhibit and participate in the world’s largest ceramic conference, The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, Minnesotta, United States.

Leonard was invited to the prestigious artist residency at Guldagergaard: The Internal Ceramic Research Centre, Denmark, in 2017. She has also been invited to a residency at Glasshouse/Stonehouse, Chenaud, France in 2019. Leonard is included in a major international survey publication of contemporary sculpture to be released next year.