British artist Patricia Volk presents highly original abstract sculptures which are the result of a combination of form and colour, guided by her intuition. The juxtaposition of contrasts, balances and harmonies of the contemporary sculptor's colourful ceramic sculptures reflect, in her mind, the very relationships between human beings.
The dream of being an artist and the beginnings of figuration
Patricia Volk currently lives and works near Trowbridge in the county of Wiltshire, England. Hailing from Belfast, Northern Ireland, she wanted to be an artist since she was a child. She suffered from dyslexia as a youngster and had difficulty expressing herself in words, but was instead obsessed with drawing, from which she drew her confidence. However, a career as an artist was something not considered possible during her schooling and her desire remained merely a dream for many years.
Settled in England, Patricia was employed in various positions and ended up working in an advertising agency. One night, after not drawing or painting for fifteen years, she started to draw again. Looking to make a life change, she was accepted to Middlesex University where she studied three-dimensional drawing, and completed her training with a ceramic course at Bath Spa University. Once she had graduated and finally embarked upon the artistic career she so aspired to, the artist was able to start experimenting freely with her favourite material, clay, to create colourful contemporary sculptures.
At the beginning her work was figurative, consisting of symbolic and asexual heads with several reference points and inspirations, both ancient and modern, such as Catholic and art history icons, the Celtic sculptural tradition and the work of Giacometti and Modigliani. Over the years, however, Patricia began to feel more and more constrained by figuration and the representational dimension that imposed meaning on her sculptures. She tells the story of her passage to abstraction: “I decided to completely simplify the forms down to see if it was still “me”. I found that it was, and this opened an exciting way forward.”
Colourful painted ceramic sculptures and the search for the perfect line
Patricia's abstract work is born from the unique combination of two elements, namely form and colour. Regarding the first, the artist aims to find a simple, pleasant, and dynamic form; the simplicity of the line is for her “a curve that might be so right that it takes your breath away, something that’s almost like a musical note in the air”. She begins her creative process by cutting different pieces of clay, in search of that perfect line and without any preconceived idea of the final piece. She then fires and assembles them, with glue or by drilling them on a structure. Patricia finds the construction of the piece very fascinating - her father was a builder - and is one of the reasons why clay has become her preferred material.
Once constructed, the sculptures are coloured with acrylic paint, and finished with a matt lacquer. Patricia's work thus departs considerably from the British tradition, in which ceramic sculptures were generally glazed, and is rather inspired by the American tradition of painted 'painted fired clay', a term used by the sculptor Ken Price. Patricia sees the colours as emphasising the form, they are capable of making the piece light, almost floating, contrasting with the weight of the clay. The artist spends a considerable amount of time choosing colours; she combines them in a visual and very subjective way, trusting her intuition and drawing inspiration from the combinations she sees in everyday life.
Patricia Volk's colourful sculptures reflect her personality, but each is an interesting new challenge for her in a quest for constant renewal. The interpretation is left free and open, although the juxtaposition of their simple yet powerful shapes and vibrant colours suggests different ideas to the viewers, such as tranquillity, conflict or even the sense of movement.
Recognition of the art world
Since 2008, Patricia Volk has exhibited her colourful sculptures in galleries and museums in the United Kingdom. Her artworks feature in private collections, such as that of the writer Anthony Horowitz and that of the politician Lord Carrington, as well as public collections, such as the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and in 2020 it was included in the book "50 Women Sculptors", alongside very famous artists like Camille Claudel, Barbara Hepworth, Niki de Saint Phalle and Louise Bourgeois. The artist is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Sculptors (FRSS), and an Academician of the Royal West of England Academy (RWA).
- Painted fired clay