Artist of the Month: Patricia Volk

March’s Artist of the Month is artist and sculptor, Patricia Volk. Patricia, a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and works from a studio in Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset.

Patricia primarily works with clay, focussing on capturing the simplicity of shape then enhanced by the chosen hue, blending the bright palettes of classical sculpture with contemporary form.

She has exhibited widely in this country and internationally; notably at Buekenholf-Phoenix Gallery in Belgium, Chichester Cathedral, the Royal West of England Academy. She was Regional Winner of the ING “Discerning Eye” prize in 2007 and shortlisted for the prestigious Brian Mercer Residency. One of her sculptures was also selected as a Southern Arts prize. Patricia’s work has been acquired by public collections such as the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, as well as the private collections of Lord Carrington, Mary Portas, Damon de Laszlo, Simon Relph CBE, and many others. In 2017 she was a guest speaker at the Ceramic Artists Association of Israel symposium at Tel Hai and Jerusalem Museum. In January 2019 she was commissioned by ITV as part of the prestigious ‘ITV Creates’ initiative, making her sculpture visible on screen to millions of television viewers.

We sat down with Patricia to find out more about her journey and to explore the ideas and inspiration behind her work. Read the interview in full below and catch Patricia taking over the ARTIQ Instagram channel from the 11th March – 16th March as we get an exclusive look behind the scenes. Follow ARTIQgram for more.

How does material/medium inform your practice?
A gallery owner once told me: “You don’t choose the material; the material chooses you.” And that is true. Because of my hyperactivity, working with clay slows me down. You have to know when to leave it, and when to push it. Also it is constantly changeable, which I like. Everything is a collaboration between the artist and the material. It’s a two-way street. Neither is completely in control or completely passive. Which is why I constantly think it is like human relationships: sometimes an argument, sometimes a seduction!

How has your work developed over time?
For the first part of my career I was obsessed by creating heads and busts, with wide-ranging influences such as Modigliani, Giacometti, Renaissance painting of virgins and the heroic sculptures of Ancient Egypt. These heads underwent a radical change when I started using vibrant colours – (using acrylics, never glazes) – and then started covering them with symbolic markings. Slowly the form and the markings became predominant, and I took the step into the unknown of dropping the figurative aspect altogether and making pure, abstract shapes. I found to my astonishment they were still “me” – or even more so. Now I’m becoming more and more fascinated by colour (and colour combinations) in conjunction with form.

What is the most memorable piece of art you have produced?
Individuals. In creating it I moved to a different scale, it was more of an installation – it is about the reaction of one colour and shape against another, which is exactly what I’m interested in.

You were recently selected to create an ITV Ident – tell us about that!
I first heard about it when somebody rang me while I was driving. They said I was on a shortlist to be commissioned for something really exciting, but that I had to fill in a non disclosure agreement before they could tell me what it was. I said “Is this one of those PPI things?” They said no, it’s genuine. I pulled in and had a proper chat with Charlie Levy, the curator organizing the project – who is fantastic. As soon as I signed the NDA she could tell me it was for ITV and the ‘ITV Creates’ initiative was going to showcase a different artist every week. The brief was to create a version of the ITV logo, but very much any way you wanted to interpret it.

What inspired the work that you created?
I immediately wanted to deconstruct the ITV logo into its constituent parts and put it together in an abstract form. It was my personal way of approaching it and came from what I do with the material of clay and construction. My thought was to convey that a lot of different people come together creatively to make any TV programme. It was both born of “where I was at” in my practice, but also opened new doors to my thinking for the future by being asked to fulfil a brief.

How did the medium of television affect your work?
First of all, it was tremendously exciting to put my work in the hands of total professionals. Charlie was a dream to work with – so efficient and enthusiastic, as was everybody I met on the set on the day of filming. I couldn’t have been more thrilled as I was seeing it come together and filmed. It opened my eyes seeing my work through a camera and moving image, beautifully lit, rather than always in the setting of my workshop or a gallery.

How do you see your art as a part of our society?
Someone on Twitter recently said to me that things are so miserable at the moment, economically and politically, that my work brought a smile to their face. And though that sounds trite, and probably not profound enough, it’s not a bad thing to achieve!

What artists have influenced your practice?
Ken Price, Betty Woodman, Jun Kaneko

What’s the last exhibition you saw that made an impact on you?
Ken Price at Hauser and Wirth in London. It confirmed that all the battles I’d had over the years defending the idea of “painted fired clay” versus glazed ceramics were the right ones. That I was a sculptor not a “potter” and I wasn’t crazy!

Tell us about your dream project…
I really have a massive secret desire for a huge exhibition, a kind of retrospective where I could fill a large space and make every work a sort of installation, a kind of tableau. Like Betty Woodman, I would like to extend the art beyond the limits of the plinth.

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
I don’t think artists really have a choice. It picked me, I didn’t pick it! You have to come to terms with the fact that this is what you are meant to do.

What art do you, or would you, collect?
I’ve always collected art of all kinds – and I feel superstitious about “giving back” and buying something memorable from another artist as soon as a bit of money comes in. I don’t understand artists who fill their house with their own work and nobody else’s. I’m a jackdaw. I’m eclectic, and you’ve got to be open to all sorts of influences, even if you don’t know they’re happening at the time. That’s the joy of producing art.

What is the one thing you cannot live without?
Twitter, and chocolate.

What advice would you give a younger you?
Have more confidence! Don’t let people tell you that you’re stupid because you can’t spell! I’m dyslexic – like many visual artists – and it was a cause of immense hurt during my school days. Thank goodness it is acknowledged now and without the stigma I experienced, which still hangs over me, however hard I try to shake it off, and however much I achieve.

Where can we see your work next?
Blackwater Gallery, Cardiff Bay (opening 30 March)
Sheriden Russell Gallery, Fresh Air, Cheltenham (26-28 April)
Gallery Different, London, (13 – 22 May)
Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden (re-opening March), The Garden Gallery, Stockbridge
Beaulie Sculpture  (May 25-July 14th)

(ITV Images – Photographs by Theo Deproost @theo_deproost)