HELENA LACY INTERVIEW
BY MARTA DE LA PARRA PRIETO
TRANSLATED FROM ENGLISH TO PORTUGUESE BY VANESSA MÚRIAS
“Helena Lacy’s sculptures are hypnotising. The organic shapes seem to merge in itself and overflow to the viewer show the power of her works delicacy.
The power of the feminine is so clear in her pieces as we can see in the series “Pot Ladies” where she represents the female form in ceramic vases — an object destined to keep plants.
Helena also works with organic and abstract shapes as we can see in the “Lava Vases” series. Through it we can notice the experimentation and the hand work are a part of the artists repertoire, with unique lava vases and delicate textures that seem to constantly move, as if the clay is melting in your hands. Beyond the shapes and details, the textures worked by the artist remind us of stones and minerals found in nature and it is on this encounter between the female power, abstraction and nature that I believe the multisensory of Helena’s work activates the female natural and practical memory.”
Helena Lacy’s introduction courtesy of brazilian multidisciplinay artista Vitória Cribb, former Galeria das Minas intervieweé.
GdM: When you set yourself within the art system, you identify as both a sculptor and ceramicist, where do you set the line between them? For that matter… do you draw them apart? if so, is it all about functionality? If I may, I will venture to say that you framed them both likewise. You state your work to “encourage a playful attitude to ceramics, reminding the
audience of the open approach we have to art in our childhood – learning with our hands and interacting with objects”. What does this approach to art entail for you?
HL: I see myself as both a sculptor and a ceramicist. Originally, I was trained in sculpture, and found ceramics later. I tried to incorporate the two and like the way the lines between functionality and art can be blurred. It is through incorporating the functionality of ceramic and the aesthetic aspect of sculpture that creates work that can be both used and appreciated visually. I believe this is what brings art closer to us in our lives and within our homes. I want the viewer to touch the pieces when they see them - the textures are there to be felt, not seen. I feel like as children we use all our senses when being confronted with something new - although I would draw the line at tasting!
GdM: Your art –from your recurring abstract work (for instance, your Skye) to the most figurative pieces (namely, your exquisite Pot Ladies)-seem to indicate that your art is focused on your working process. If I understood correctly it seems like you do talk about your work in those terms when you say, “working with your hands, touch is an integral part of the creative process”. It is also interesting to mention that while talking about your process, you usually bring the viewer in. We would love to hear more about “touch as an integral part of the process”.
HL: Making a ceramic piece - whether a sculpture or a vase - is a very tactile process. Using your hands to create the curves you can feel how far the clay can be pushed before it cracks. I believe this tension can be seen in the final piece, that the viewer can follow the movements my hands made to create it.
GdM: Your work not only focuses on processes but also on materials–distinctly clay-, or as you had worded it “pushing the boundaries of clay and seeing how far you can make the medium curve and stretch using the coil building technique, by mimicking a drawing and discovering along the way what's actually possible when you try to make a 3D sculpture from a 2D image”. We would also very much like to learn more about it.
HL: All my work starts as a flat 2D sketch. When I choose to make one into a sculpture, I know what the front will look like but have no idea how it will all join together. When sculpting you can use an armature which you can shape and carve to create the skeleton, which you then add the clay to and build up, which is a fairly simple process. But when you try to create a sculpture in ceramic using the coil building technique, the sculpture has to be hollow, creating the walls and shaping as you go. This process is much more challenging but also more fun - you can never fully predict how the piece will turn out. This way of creating my sculptures really pushes the limits of clay.
GdM: Curves shapes seem to be continuously present in your work, for instance, your Lava Vase, or your Skye Vase, as well as in your Sculpture in Skye or Blue Skye. Why curved shapes? What do they pose for you?
HL: I am drawn to curved shapes in all art as to me, curves are instantly sensory and evoke a feeling of pleasure and comfort. I just want to touch it! As an artist, that’s the kind of thing I want to create. To me, curved shapes are feminine and feel familiar. When I first started to create sculptures like ‘Blue Skye’, they were based on the female body. I liked to take apart the traditionally feminie parts of the body and put them back together to create an abstract expression of the female form. Since then I have continued to use curved shapes throughout my work but found further inspiration from natural forms and textures found in nature, such as lava - hence my new vase range, ‘Lava Vases’.
GdM: Personally, I am fascinated by your “Ceramic sculptures”. Could you tell me more about them?
HL: My ceramic sculptures are inspired by a lot of different shapes and textures in nature such as rock formations and the way lava flows and hardens. The “Cumulus” sculpture was inspired by cloud formation. Not only does its shape call to mind images of clouds, the process of making it also reminded me of the way a cloud forms and changes. The final piece looks nothing like my original idea!
GdM: I must recognize, even though I am acquaintanced with your work – I do fancy it, greatly- I did not know your Natura Morta. I am currently madly drawn and obsessed with it. Please tell me everything there is to know about it.
HL: ‘Natura Morta’ was a multi sensory learning experience - an installation where senses such as sight, smell, hearing and touch where used to help educate. I created this installation for my final degree piece while studying at Wimbledon College of Art. We had our final year to make something and I wanted to create something big the audience could interact and have fun with. Originally the idea was based upon children with learning difficulties and how multi sensory learning is used to teach them through their senses, though I went on to adapt it for all ages. I wanted to create sculptures that the audience could interact with and touch, as often, there’s a boundary. The sculpture's aim was to look like two paintings hanging in a grand gallery, but you can step inside and in a sense become the artwork. I tried to incorporate and maintain a classical form, based on still life paintings and the works of artist Arcimboldo.
GdM: Your work takes inspiration from many textures and shapes in Nature. Please, tell us more about your influences, and all things that inspired you.
HL: I look around me and the things that I find pleasurable to look at, I want to create more of. The things that are pleasing to my eye, I feel can in turn be pleasing to my audience. Nature is a great source of inspiration as it is so vast and everyone has some kind of connection to it.
GdM: I will like to lay emphasis on your female influences.
Barbara Hepworth, Betty Woodman, Lynda Benglis, Ruth Asawa, Yayoi Kusama, Venus figurines,
GdM: A show.
HL: “Yummy” drag show at the Underbelly Festival in London 2019 - the most entertaining hour of my life!
GdM: Something to read.
HL: “Mythos” by Stephen Fry.
GdM: Something to listen to.
HL: Doona by Les Amazones d’Afrique, Lost and Lookin’ by Sam Cooke, Heartbreak road by Bill Withers, Hurt So Good by Susan Cadogan, Earthquake by This Is The Kit, Passionfruit by Benny Sings.
GdM: Something to watch.
HL: I recently watched Years and Years and couldn’t recommend it more. It seems scarily accurate for what could be coming, and soon!
GdM: Recently, you took part in Peckham Craft Show. Tell us a bit about it.
HL: Yes, I have taken part in the Peckham Craft Show for the last three years and look forward to it so much (it is part of London Craft Week). It’s run by two wonderful women called Rachael and Chloe and they sure know how to put on a show and display work!
GdM: Lastly, tell us a secret, any upcoming projects.
HL: I am currently working towards my first Craft Fair out of the uk called Keramisto in the Netherlands in late September.
Images courtesy of the artist.