Life in Clay - Bradford on Avon sculptor Patricia Volk talks to Wiltshire magazine.

PUBLISHED: 15:30 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:19 20 February 2013

Life in Clay - Bradford on Avon sculptor Patricia Volk talks to Wiltshire magazine.

Life in Clay - Bradford on Avon sculptor Patricia Volk talks to Wiltshire magazine.

From modelling heads to producing abstract balanced structures has been a significant and scary departure for Patricia Volk

Life in Clay - Bradford on Avon sculptor Patricia Volk talks to Wiltshire magazine.


For sculptor Patricia Volk, coming to Wiltshire felt like arriving home. Its strange. I think its true that you have two homes in life; one is the place you come from and the other is the place you find. And I feel tremendously lucky finding somewhere that suits my life and my work.


Patricia lives in the (newly so-called) historic working town of Bradford on Avon, but her studio is on a farm populated by a number of artists and craftspeople at Wingfield near Trowbridge. Its a great mix, I like the situation and the interaction. But essentially I get my head down and Im in my own world. Head being the operative word.


For the last 15 years she has been more or less immersed in creating startlingly bold ceramic heads that hearken to the ancient yet sing out in strong colours. These she often thinks of as flawed heroes, empowered virgins, or pensive deities. I felt for a long time they were the ideal vessels for conveying humanity through the material, she says. But they were also my comfort zone. Recently Ive made a complete departure, which I find really exciting.


Though Patricias heads were always symbolic and semi-abstract, she wanted to find out what happened if she disposed of the figurative, literal element and concentrated simply on the basic forms and lines shed grown to love.


What Ive discovered is a fascination with how one line or form has an effect upon another next to it. Juxtapositions of shape and colour can create wonderful contradictions of power and fragility, stability and precariousness which, to me, always reflect human relationships. Their closeness is tender but also tentative, and in some of them I have marks representing how people rub against each other. Theres an awkward but beautiful partnership between the strong and the weak, the delicate and the robust, creating sometimes a balanced structure that seems as if it might topple, but keeps standing. Just as in life!


Patricia was born in Belfast and moved to London to pursue a career in advertising, where she met her husband, the writer Stephen Volk, who created the recent ITV drama series Afterlife. Office work never really interested me. My first love was always art but earlier in my life it was a dream that was impossible to follow. But Steve had been to art college, and various people encouraged me to apply as a mature student. It was probably one of the most exciting days of my life when I got in.


The move to Wiltshire came halfway through her degree, after which the aforementioned heads quickly became an obsession to her, beginning with a series of Heroes and Virgins, reflecting emotional depth and contemporary frailties as well as traditional elegance and power.


These developed into the vessel-like Deity series, and then Totem Heads with brightly coloured, sometimes complex, markings. Heads are containers, not of intellect, but of something spiritual, secret and unknowable. These surface markings represent a map of the various journeys of life. I also began using medical symbols, reflecting that, for all our complexity, we are essentially beings made up of an array of chemicals.


The thought process lying beneath her work has earned Patricia many admirers. She has exhibited widely across the UK and in New York, and has work in such collections as those of Lord Carrington, Sir John Mortimer, Anthony Horowitz and British Consul (Ivory Coast). Her work was chosen as a Southern Arts Prize, and features in a number of books on British Sculpture and Garden Design.


In 2007 she was regional winner in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Gallery, and last year was shortlisted for the Brian Mercer Residency by the Royal British Society of Sculptors. But she is far from resting on her laurels.


She says: The old adage is to Do one scary thing every day. Departing from heads (my old friends) was not easy, but I am excited that these new abstract forms are still essentially me. And in a way, they have set me free.


You can see more of Patricias work at http://www.patriciavolk.co.uk and at an exhibition of her work at One Two Five, 125 Bath Road, Box, from 26 Nov-13 Dec. 01225 858888

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