Meeting Viv Lee
- You've had several lives ! How did you begin working with clay ? How did you know that clay would be your thing ?
Yes I had quite a convoluted path before I discovered clay, and you’re right, I did have a short stint working for a city accountancy firm after leaving university though that experience feels like a lifetime ago. It had always been a dream of mine to study art, but it wasn’t until my mid thirties that I had the courage and opportunity to follow this dream. In the second year of my sculpture degree at Glasgow School of Art, a visiting art professor from China came to teach a class on modelling a head in clay. As soon as I touched the material, I felt instinctively drawn to it and began experimenting with making ceramic objects which continued throughout my time at art school. After graduating in 2017, I decided to work exclusively with clay and set up my studio.
- I have been told that you also used to be a flower designer ! Is floral art still connected to your creative process ?
I was a floral designer for nearly ten years before going to art school and I think the skills that I gained from working with flowers where form, colour and texture are taken into account when creating a floral arrangement, also inform my making with clay. While I consider my pieces as sculptures to be enjoyed in their own right, I am also aware of how the appreciation of a single flower can be a beautiful experience of connecting to nature, so my vessels are also intended for this purpose.
- Your work is very distinctive, very "signed", Who are your biggest influences ?
Recent bodies of work from my Sympoiesis collection were influenced by my interest in neolithic sculpture, Cycladic art and the research of American-Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, but inspiration also comes from other varied sources, such as the curves and lines of the human figure, organic forms found in nature, and artists such as Salvatore Fiume, Valentine Schlegel and Barbara Hepworth.
- Could you explain to us how mind-body connection and Zen buddhism are important in your daily life and related to your work ?
My interest in Zen has informed my approach to life. Any activity when done mindfully can be a form of meditation, going for a run, cooking, gardening, arranging flowers or coiling a pot. When I can quiet the chatter of my mind, the best ideas emerge. So I try to incorporate some form of meditation in my everyday life as part of getting my creative juices flowing.
- Many of the vessels you create are evocative of the human form. - What kind of approach do you have regarding shape ? Walk me through the process of how these works come to life… Do you draw ? Is it totally intuitive ?
I find the diversity of human forms endlessly fascinating. Rather than seeking perfection in symmetrical forms, I appreciate asymmetry and embrace the beautiful irregularity of bodies. Nature is also a great teacher in this respect, the curve of a branch or the organic shapes of pebbles, all created unselfconsciously and intuitively, yet perfectly imperfect in their authenticity. All these ideas and influences filter into my work but when it comes down to making, I love to use Surrealist automatic drawing as a way of uncovering unconscious forms, though ultimately I try to remain flexible to the outcome and allow the material and the moment to dictate the final forms that emerge.
- What's next for you ?
Growing up in Hong Kong and living in different countries before settling in Scotland has created a strong desire to explore what it means to have a physical connection to place. I am interested developing a new body of ceramic vessels made in response to being in and connecting to my chosen homeland, Scotland, which will incorporate natural materials sourced from the land into the clay body or in the glaze. I love making larger ceramic works so I imagine these pieces will be large in scale. This winter I will be developing a limited edition range of vessels for a British sustainable clothing and lifestyle brand and I’m in discussion with a few galleries for shows in 2021 in the UK and US.
Photo credit Gabriela Silveira