Q&A with Ceramist Virginie Besengez

Up and coming ceramist Virginie Besengez discusses shape, space and her inspirations.
sandstone, cups, porcelain, ceramics
This inset photograph of a circle of sandstone and porcelain cups contains the sober blacks and whites of Besengez's Flemish home. Image courtesy of Patrick Leveque.

How did you start working with ceramics?

Before I started working with ceramics, I’d been studying sculpture for five years, [which also involves] observation, a sense of touch, patience and an attention to volume. I started to look in a different way at things surrounding me in my daily life. Useful things became tiny pieces of art, some decorative items gained value for me and logically I desired to learn how to make them.I gave up my prior work to study ceramics for three years.

What about your work continues to interest you? 

My main interest in clay is that it’s a limitless material, in shapes and creation. Everything seems possible, it opens an infinite exploration field. Every day, when I get in my studio, I know I may discover, learn, dig, do again. I may be pleasantly surprised. I’m fond of this work’s inconstancy and fragility.

The light filtering through these two sandstone strainers displays the shine and shades of grey inherent in the material. Image courtesy of Virginie Besengez.

You say that you’re inspired by the aesthetic of Flemish still life. Which architects and artists inspire you?

I’m have Flemish origins, and painters like Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Pieter de Hoogh remind me of the landscape where I was born : gray skies, huge clouds, rich and dark soil. Back in my grandparents’ house, walls and furniture were dark, a black which gave a discreet but sensible light to the atmosphere. Each material—wood.  clothes, bricks and stone—was peaceful and reassuring.

As for modern painters, I admire Pierre Soulages.

Entitled 'still life' the varying heights and depths of this group of sandstone vases recalls a city skyline. Image courtesy of Patrick Leveque.

Where is your work sold and why do you sell your work? 

I sell my work through galleries and art shops. Of course I sell my pieces in order to live, but I also sell my pieces because I don’t want to live among them. Once they’re finished, I cherish the idea that they’re going to ‘live’ somewhere else; they don’t belong to me anymore.It’s not for myself that I make pieces.

What is your artistic process ?

Generally, my work relies upon the repetition of certain gestures, gestures I’ll repeat like a true obsession. They quite hypnotize me.Every time I get into my studio to start a new piece, I try to rediscover or reinvent movements I did the day before. I’m still looking for the primitive gestures, made by the first men making their first pot.

cup, town, ceramics, porcelain
In Besengez's porcelain 'Cup Town,' small figures draw attention to the architectural structuring of everyday objects. Image courtesy of Patrick Leveque.

What is your studio like?

My studio isn’t really organised. I know (with some precision) where my tools are. I have little time, so I often delay cleaning and tidying. The essential things I have there are two bookcases. I sit beside, them taking few minutes to read books—whatever the subject (photography, design, painting), it’s very necessary to my work.

What major setbacks you have faced in your career?

Ceramics is tough work. It involves a lot of time for technical research, personal reflection, and of course, making. I feel discouraged from time to time, mainly because ceramics is an art of little reputation in France.

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