Virginia Leonard

Virginia Leonard, Urns for Unwanted Limbs and Other Things, 2022

Clay, resin, lustre, gold. Urns H350-1100 x W290-600mm. Plinths 1500 x 300mm.

Urns for Unwanted Limbs and Other Things is a series of seven sculptures from Virginia Leonard.

Reimagined in her characteristic skittle-coloured glazes and shining lustres, Leonard transforms the classic funerary vessel of the urn into something far from funereal. Leonard conceives these vessels as “a place to discard what you will.” This might include, she suggests, “feet, left legs, abdominal fat, double chins, in-laws, annoying neighbours.”

Like all of her works, the urns poke fun at our intolerance for what is uncomfortable, messy or deficient about ourselves and our lives: while we might be right to wish to be rid of belly fat and in-laws, any attempt to cut them loose and stow them away would be mostly hopeless, especially in these urns, which are covered in holes and protrusions and perched upon spindly stools, ready to be toppled by an onshore wind.


b.1965 Auckland. Lives and works in Auckland.

Virginia Leonard has been working with clay since 2013, after practising for several decades as an abstract painter. Visceral and volatile, the medium was well-suited to Leonard, for whom art functions primarily to articulate her personal experience of chronic pain.

In her vessels, the abstractionist’s eye for colour and gesture is marked but met with the many contingencies of working with ceramics and the inherent corporeality of the three-dimensional form. The resulting works convey the messiness of the ‘unwell’ body as something fragile, and with the unfortunate tendency to ooze, but insist equally on its right to glamour and humour.

Leonard holds a BFA and an MFA from Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design earned respectively in 1990 and 2001. Recent solo projects include ‘Virginia Leonard: Golden Legs and Other Bits’ Mindy Solomon Gallery (2021) and ‘Breath Holder’, Gow Langsford Gallery (2020). She has received several awards recognising her work in Aotearoa and overseas, most recently the Officine Saffi Award for Pus and Scabs, 2021 (Milan), and First Runner-up in the 29th Annual Wallace Art Awards for Cripple, 2020.

Represented by Gow Langsford Gallery gowlangsfordgallery.co.nz