It is difficult to create a sculpture that has been referenced and made multiple times by other makers. Say for example, creating Jesus Christ - there are more than a thousand renditions of this piece. The question then, in creating the new piece, is whether there is something that the new creation adds, portrays or expresses that hasn’t been found.
Lladró makes thousands of pieces, and some of them are very culturally specific. In-house sculptor Virginia González works on a lot of these pieces, taking on the design of pieces that avid fans would be very specific about the details of. She’s made anything from Frida Kahlo, the feminist icon, Lord Balaji, the master of manifestation, to Fly Me To The Moon, a modern interpretation of a pair of parakeets.
We spoke to Virginia to hear her thoughts about sculpting and how she adds a personal touch to her designs for Lladró.
WHY DO YOU LIKE SCULPTING?
I naturally navigated towards sculpting when I was studying fine arts and we went through the gamut of disciplines. At that time, sculpture as a career was promoted a lot by the Faculty of Fine Arts and together with other things like Art Installations and Ceramics was very attractive for me.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION AS A SCULPTOR?
I find a lot of inspiration in other cultures, religions and customs.
WHAT BRINGS YOU THE MOST SATISFACTION FROM SCULPTING?
Bringing my idea or an image into something tangible that I can see, touch and fee. A creation that speaks for itself.
YOU SPECIALISE IN CULTURALLY SPECIFIC PIECES LIKE LORD BALAJI, FRIDA KAHLO, ETC. HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT YOU GET THE DETAILS RIGHT AND CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE? HOW DO YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH FOR THESE CULTURALLY SPECIFIC PIECES?
Before I start on each piece, there is an extensive research phase. In cases where I represent gods of different religions, we seek guidance by speaking to people of that culture and the priests of that religion. For example, with Hinduism pieces, we speak to a Hindu priest. It is very important to really study the god, being very thorough as we respect the myths, stories and beliefs that go behind each detail and decoration.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU FACE IN CREATING CULTURALLY SPECIFIC PIECES?
In reference to the Gods, the biggest challenge is to understand what each god represents and figure out how we are able to express that innately. It makes a big difference when a sculpture represents the god and when it emanates what the god stands for. To be create that sense of presence so the viewer is moved by the sculpture itself although a sculpture is not a living object, is what we aim for.
Virginia works on Lord Balaji, a spectacular high porcelain piece.
WHICH PIECE IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE AND WHY?
I usually say that my favourite piece is always the last one I’m working on, it is the one that I’ve been absorbed into, it takes me with it into its universe.
WHAT DO YOU THINK DISTINGUISHES A GOOD PIECE FROM ONE THAT IS JUST MEDIOCRE?
I believe that what determines a good sculpture is balance and its expressive capacity. When you see a work that makes you stop and dream, regardless of the subject.
WHAT DID YOU FIND THE HARDEST TO DEPICT IN FRIDA KAHLO?
The most difficult thing about representing iconic characters is to interpret them in the language of the brand, with our own codes and at the same time make them recognizable.
It is not about making an exact portrait, but to interpret the character and identify them, so that you see them and have no doubt about who they are.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON WHAT TO LEAVE ON OR REMOVE FROM THE LARGE LORD BALAJI TO THE SMALLER LORD BALAJI?
Lord Balaji is a wonderfully ornate God, so what we did was to eliminate certain details that would either be so minute that would make no visual impact and those that are not significant, leaving only the essentials. But Lord Balaji, and most Hindu gods, are visually so powerful that there is always richness in them.
WHEN YOU CREATE A PIECE, DO YOU CONSIDER HOW A VIEWER WILL EXPERIENCE A PIECE?
When you draw inspiration from other cultures, I am very careful to be very respectful of the traditions and the sensitivity and religious devotion. I try to think and imagine what the devotees of those gods want to see and feel. When it comes to icons as well, it is a balance of what people expect to see, and what I find in my research that is important to that icon, but maybe isn’t commonly portrayed.
HOW DO YOU PUT YOUR PERSONALITY INTO THE PIECES YOU CREATE?
Intrinsically, each piece I make is based on how I view something, it my voice and my point of view. In making a piece I try to bring out the best in each piece and how it can be made and expressed, this is something that shows the tone and timbre of how I view the world, these pieces, icons and personas. In a way, my other colleagues would make absolutely great renditions of the pieces I make, but we would perhaps highlight different parts or characteristics of a piece, so that in a way is a natural signature.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND DIGITAL SCULPTURE (CLAY VS. COMPUTER)?
I think that the computer is a tool and what matters is the user who uses it. Like all tools, it has a language, but it is in the artist's eye that would be able to use the tool. Some artists express better in digital sculpture and some in traditional physical sculpting. The methodology itself doesn’t determine the final result. As we make everything mostly in porcelain, I have to adapt the piece to the spirit that we want to transmit, to the aesthetics or to the form. Depending on the item, I do use both methods to see different sides of the piece. In both cases the result must be in accordance with what Lladró wants to transmit.
For me, much of the magic of sculptures is in the imperfection of the human touch. Anything that is handmade has the warmth of the person who has made it and has a personal touch. Maybe it isn’t as common nowadays, so people are drawn to this.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM PROJECT?
I am a Buddhist and I love sculpting the mudras. In the Buddhism, the position of the hands in Buddha images has a deep symbolism. These hand positions are called mudras and reflect some of the Buddha's mental attitudes. There are five fundamental hand positions or mudras, reflecting five mental situations: absence of fear, wisdom, patience... They transmit values that I am in tune with.
NOTABLE PIECES CREATED BY VIRGINIA GONZÁLEZ:
Born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón on the 6th July 1907 in Mexico, Frida Kahlo was a brilliant artist known for her visually telling self-portraits. She explored the themes of self identity, her biological limitations, death and life. Her life was marked by pain, from the polio she contracted at five, the bus accident that nearly took her life caused severe injuries, and the many health complications as a result of these. Many of her self portraits were painted with her laying in bed.
Her tumultuous relationship with artist Diego Rivera was turbulent, and they often had fights, and each had multiple affairs, divorced once, and remarried again in less than a year. Frida Kahlo once wrote in her notebook “there have been two great accidents in my life,” - the terrible bus accident she was in at 18, and the time she met Diego Rivera.
Frida Kahlo lived her life to the fullest, expressing both happiness and despair in her paintings that made her famous.
Many people from all around the world travel to India to visit the Temple of Tirupati Balaji, where the deity Lord Balaji presides. But what’s so special about Lord Balaji and why do 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims wait hours that sometimes stretch beyond a day just to see him and show him their gratitude?
The details of the large Lord Balaji, with a magnificent presence.
Devotees have said to have felt the presence of divinity during their visit to Lord Balaji of which words can not describe and that they’ve left the temple with an even stronger faith and belief. There have also been spiritual incidences that couldn’t be explained that people want to experience for themselves.
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