Virginie Besengez - Spotlight, November 2012

SPOTLIGHT, November 2012: Virginie Besengez

Virginie Besengez Contemporary Ceramics - Featured on Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview by Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

Your body of work consists in reinterpretations in stoneware and porcelain of everyday objects. What sparked your interest for ceramics?

Firstly, an attraction toward the household objects led me to ceramic. I am deeply fascinated by clay and the gesture of the hand cupping the bowl.
Beyond the objects, my interest for this art was aroused by a strong link with the origin of humankind, the ancestral tradition of making household objects out of that universal and natural clay. Finally, meeting with ceramists and contemplating their work was a strong incentive to become part of that story.

The refinement and suaveness of your ceramic pieces are given by your attention to detail. Tell us about your educational background and other related experiences.

I had numerous trainings in France and Belgium with ceramists, during which I learned, observed and appreciated the simplicity of the gesture of the first movement. Permanently, I think of the first gestures man performed in order to create a clay or stoneware object.
I love the primitive aspect of this job whose rules have not changed for thousands of years.

How did the architecture of the North of France and the austere aesthetic of the Flemish still-life affected your work?

I am of Flemish origins, I have always lived in the North of France. I don’t believe in plain inspiration, it comes through our environment and culture. In my region and in the near Belgium country more particularly, the black color is omnipresent: in my ancestors clothes, in the colors of the walls, in Flemish paintings. When I walk around cities like Amsterdam or Gand, or along the enbankment in Anvers Harbor, or wandering in Bruxelles, what strikes me is the simplicity and efficiency of architecture, either XVIth century and ultra-contemporary. Streamlined shapes, huge openings to catch maximum light in spite of often grey skies.
My country is also a landscape of industrial wasteland. Former silos, unused steel factories, traces of a bygone industry in which concrete and rusty steel beams are the ghosts of that prosperous era.

Virginie Besengez Ceramics - Featured on Ceramics Now Magazine
Virginie Besengez, Brimming Over, 2012, Stoneware and porcelain, Diam. 50 cm x H. 40 cm. - View Virginie Besengez’s works

The monochrome compositions that you create give the viewer a subtle remembrance of the object design of the 60’s. Why did you choose not to use color in your works?

Color makes no sense to me, for me it takes too much space and leaves no room for subtlety and details. You need to have a poetic mind to be moved by the grey sea of the North, by the dull skies of Flanders.
Grey and black change according to the light, they are not permanent, thus the object has several lives in one day. I am particularly interested in the numerous shades of grey that light can enhance in a monochrome composition, depending on the clay, its closeness to an immaculate porcelain and the way pieces are laid out.
I have been influenced and inspired by Morandi, but also by urban wastelands, steel compression ready for recycling, odds and ends piled up at the back of an old scottish shop.

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Jean-François Fouilhoux / Galerie Capazza, Nançay, France

Jean-François Fouilhoux, stoneware sculpture exhibition Galerie Capazza, Nançay, France

Jean-François Fouilhoux, stoneware sculpture / Galerie Capazza, Nançay, France
17th March - 17th June 2012

Opening reception: Saturday, March 17th, 5.00pm

I love clay.
I’m always moved to see the mark made by my fingers in soil.
Clay remembers their lightest touch and retains the slightest motion transmitted to it.
The mildest inflection – or even hesitation – leaves its trace.
It is a recorder of emotions. Hasn’t a scientist said that given the right tools, one could hear the sounds generated in the studio when a pot is being thrown because they are etched into its surface, like the first recordings of voices on wax cylinders? This highly singular property of clay is all the richer because the firing sets these marks and preserves their traces.
Like the wall of a cave and pigment, or paper and pencil, clay engages with the hands and the body.
I write in the soil.
My pencil? A flexible blade that I bend at will. My medium? A wall of clay.
I sketch in space by drawing the blade through the wall and slicing into its thickness.
The line is a continuous one, just as with writing, and the volume takes form blindly, as imagined by the gesture.
The form is then composed of two interlocking elements, separated by a small gap.
We could say that each is a mould or an impression of the other, with a space that Marcel Duchamp defined as being ‘infra-thin’. They are born of the same gesture: the trace left by the motion of the flexible blade is all that ultimately interests me.
I then sacrifice one of the two parts, which I destroy to allow the impression of the gesture to appear.
Traces of energy, of tension… Like a calligrapher, I have meditated on the gesture before executing it. It is a sort of dance or ritual in which the movement is expansive, dynamic, continuous and without regrets.The goal is freeing up the sensitive impression, after a privileged moment, by emptying its material content and reducing it to a skin,
then bringing it to life as if suspended in the void… and simply capturing the energy of the gesture expressed in space…
This is yet another story of fullness and emptiness, which is recurrent in ceramics. It is also the story of celadon – translucent – another symbol for completeness and void: both matter and light.

Jean-François Fouilhoux

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Virginie Besengez

Virginie Besengez's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

“I am inspired by the urban landscapes around me, the architecture of the North and by the austere aesthetic of Flemish still-life. I like plain clay, monochrome compositions. I shape my pieces and accumulate them according to an imaginary plan, to create installations in search of the perfect balance.

I have a feeling for everyday objects, for the physical relationship we have with them (the closeness we have to them) for the way they wear out.

My work on pans enable me to confront the apparent solidity of the piece which hits the collective subconscious, with the fragility of clay.” Virginie Besengez

Virginie Besengez draws her inspiration from nature. She is interested in the movement, repetition in the landscapes that are constantly changing with the wind and the light. ‘Like a photographer I would like to capture a moment in time by creating forms and curves similar to those found in nature. The texture of the surfaces of my vessels achieved by polishing, grinding and also raku firing is very important to me.’

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Cathy Coëz

Cathy Coëz's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

Although her work has been devoted to drawing, she first encountered the medium of ceramic in 2007. Ceramic has ever since given the artist an opportunity to explore new possibilities of representation. It has provided a means to re-examine and reassess the artist’s ongoing concerns on the role and nature of the work of art as an artefact.

Cathy Coëz’s three-dimensional ’Clay drawings’ and ’Porcelain drawings’ explore the compositional element of aesthetic and the nature of the ceramic medium. These drawings are organized geometrically (a circle, a disk or a square), and are made out of hundreds of pieces carefully arranged. The clay and porcelain material is tirelessly thrown on a ceramic wheel to form hundreds of unique pieces that are created to form a species of its kind. The substance of the clay, together with the inexhaustible possibility of forms and shapes it offers, has fascinated the artist ever since she started to explore the medium in 2007.

The creative process of these museums-sized pieces are initially conceived through a computer Vector Drawing Program, then each piece is methodically arranged and placed next to each other with painstaking precision. The end result is a response to an ongoing research into the nature of minimalist aesthetic and the sophisticated character of macrocosm and microcosm blend.

“In my previous silkscreen drawings, I used to work with a vast selection of colours. With my ceramic work, I am interested in the monochromatic and minimalist approach to colour, tones and shades. I focus instead on the individuality and uniqueness of each piece. For me, throwing clay is like drawing a shape. I start the process by establishing a form, then gradually organise its volume, rearrange its proportions and finalise its character. The shapes and forms I create seem to organically emerge from between my fingers.” Cathy Coëz

Cathy Coëz is a French Multi-disciplinary artist. She lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. Her artwork has been internationally exhibited in galleries and museums and is part of public and private collections.

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