Jars for Oscar, Platters for Gizella
573 ̊ Virginia McClure Ceramics Biennale
Biscuiterie Oscar — a magical cookie and candy store filled with stacks of colourful boxes, bulk bins of chocolate bars, biscuits, and sweets. Oscar, my mother’s self-avowed secret paramour, was our little secret. She insisted that our fatherought never know, “A woman doesn’t tell her husband that sheis moonlighting with someone sweeter”.
At Oscar’s, I roamed the aisles bewildered by the quantity and variety of decadence. Observing other women there, some with their children, I would imagine what lies they would tell their husbands about where they had been that day. Our usual purchases: broken Oh-Henry!, Kit-Kat, Mr. Big, Secret bars,even their names felt illicit, saucy, to my young 7-year old mind.These name-brand chocolates were sold in bulk at a reducedprice, without wrappers, all rejected for aesthetic imperfectionsby their original factory; secret, sweet, imperfect, bliss-filled bulk-bags of chocolate.
When I asked if she would ever tell my father about our trips to Oscar’s, my mother replied “A woman only tells her husband after moonlighting 100 times with her paramour. After 100 visits, the satisfaction just doesn’t last anymore”. In theseplayful (and half-serious) conversations with my mother, Oscar,the store, was personified in her imagination (and mine); a paramour who possessed the promise of a delectable sweet.
extract from 573 ̊catalogue:
During an artist residency at Medalta in Medicine hat,Alberta, Veronika horlik discovered a treasure of forgotten, outdated tools that were destined to become museum arte-facts. she decided to breathe new life into an old machine in order to make large crocks. by re-appropriating old techniques, Veronika horlik rediscovered forgotten ges- tures and confronted her material head-on, which was an extraordinary adventure.
These new creations enabled Veronika horlik to surpass her own technical limits. throwing, carving, glazing, and firing are all great challenges with such work. in the face of these enormous pots, Veronika was challenged by the magnitude of her creations. she had to pay the price of her impatience with the firing process, which resulted in cracking, splitting, and breaking. luckily, the majority ofthe pieces survived, but the warning was clear: the materialdoes not respond to the laws of the ceramicist, rather, it is she that needs to adapt to and accept the constraints of clay, which requires respect and time to become ceramic. drying and passing through the 573 degrees threshhold are not trivial acts with such large work.
By reinterpreting objects that have their own glorious past in order to appropriate them for the present, Veronika’s pieces belong to a not-so-distant story — her own. the work interprets dreamlike memories of a young girl with her mother in a candy store…
curator : Luc Delavigne
Luc Delavigne: is your skill an ally to you, or an inhibitor?
Veronika Horlik: both. My experience and skill allow me to transform my ideas with ease and precision. As a teacher, however, i regularly witness the young creative talent ofnovice artists who are not weighed down by rules that applyto the material, a harness of sorts to knowledge. where professionals can wear blinders that limit them, the nov- ice’s lack of experience lets her innovate and see beyond the usual limits of skill.
In my biennale project, i forced myself to work in the spirit of a novice. At each stage, i drew from my vast array of experience as a ceramicist — while at the same time allowing the work to go beyond what i know — to experiment, to push my own boundaries with the discipline, to play!
Like the limitations of structures that guide certain forms of poetry, the limitations of my discipline — of the laws of materiality belonging to ceramics — serve as ballasts for fine-tuned expression. working within a set of constraints allows for an opening up of focussed possibilities or out- comes — possibilities that i would otherwise never have been able to tap into.
My recent sculptural work focuses on the Canadian Forestrylandscape, and our perception of nature’s destruction and regeneration in the face of industrial incursions. For this new series, i am addressing more personal occurrences: the secret vices of our parents, and how these ornament our life, shaping our perception for better or for worse.
Luc Delavigne: what is your relationship with technology?
Veronika Horlik: each technology has the potential to be as much of a burden as a blessing; the appearance of new technolo- gies is a continuous process in all spheres of our world. i think there is a danger when we see a new technology as having intrinsic value. For instance, there is a certain fan-tasy surrounding clay 3d printing technology right now. themore complex the tool, the more potential it has to usurp authentic expression.
Each ceramic tool, from the smallest engraving tool to the largest electronic kiln, is in itself a form of technology. it manifests its value in the way we chose to use it. we have to beware, i think, of notions that predict a better future because of the simple apparition of new technologies. Atechnology can lead to true creation and even transform it,but there must be innovative thought to push the technol- ogy towards new uses.
“in literature it is not forbidden to pick up a rusty tool; the important thing is to know how to sharpen the blade and re-forge the handle as needed.”
— Alphonse daudet (trente ans de paris, 1888)