From The Night Horse and The Holy Baboon
Penny Hancock interviews Victoria Rance
after her recent exhibition in The Learned Pig
an online magazine about art, thinking,
nature and writing edited by Tom Jeffreys.
PH: Mythical creatures often feature in your work, as well
as real animals. I am thinking of Loki, or The Night Horse
and the Holy Baboon, in your recent exhibition. Would
you say there are some archetypes that speak to all of us,
and what do you believe these represent for us?
VR: I think there are some very powerful archetypes that we
carry within us. Horses seem to still be so important to humans.
And even creatures we’ve never come across speak to us.
Wolves for example. I grew up in the countryside by woods
and was frightened of wolves and thought I heard them at
night, even though I knew there weren’t any there. Fear is primal,
like fear of snakes. As we mentioned earlier, I am just now
researching hyenas and how they have been a carrier of certain
human qualities we want to disown or make “other”.Presence and Absence in Contemporary Sculpture
From Penny Hancock reviews Victoria Rance:
The Night Horse and The Holy Baboon
Sculptures, Drawings, Photographs and Animations
2007-2017 at The Cello Factory 23-30 October 2017
on a-n.co.uk reviews
The silhouettes of two giant figures, long eared, long armed
—human? —animal? —mythical? —straddle the entrance to
the gallery. They appear to have their backs to us, guarding
what lies ahead. Or are they facing us, offering us protection,
or warning, as we enter? Between the figures, a giant,
golden-haired baboon can be seen against the light. Beside it
is a wooden horse, reminiscent of a nursery toy, but enlarged
out of all proportion. It is one of the most striking entrances
to an exhibition I’ve ever seen.
Inside the baboon seems menacing, sinister, towering over the
horse. The horse, made simply of wood with its stylized, half-
closed eyes, and its naïve contours, appears vulnerable, its
head down, demurely facing the baboon. But as you approach
The Night Horse and The Holy Baboon your perceptions are
subverted. It’s the horse that has a sinister air about it, the
baboon a protective one. Can the simplicity of the horse figure
be trusted? Can the dominating presence of the golden baboon
perhaps be interpreted as comforting, a protective giant, watching
From Thinking is Making
Black Dog Publishing 2013 Edited by Michael Taylor
Excerpt from text by Fiona MacDonald
Themes of shielding and protecting take centre stage in the work of Victoria Rance, and most of this refers directly to the human form. Her metal and fabric masks, helmets and armour, designed to protect from exposure to both elemental forces as well as other people are intended to be worn. The performers with whom she collaborates are significantly more than just models, and are often family members. It is often these performers' own needs, (as imagined by or explained to Rance), that trigger the work.
On her studio wall are photographs of a spider, a beetle and a caterpillar, each one a species that disguises itself as another in order to avoid attack - impersonating a poisonous species, whilst lacking their own protective weaponry. Whole-body enclosures one can wriggle into take up the bright warning patterns of small beasts to act as a different kind of armour, protecting the vulnerable space of the psyche from the cruel or indifferent realities of life by allowing the wearer to become other than themselves.
Rance can achieve an impressive interweaving of the mystical and the commonplace, in both conception and fabrication. Her ideas often arise from interaction with children, where the barriers between real and imagined are less rigid. Many of her methods: metalwork, stitching weaving have their own counterpoint in the ancient and mythical world. In the pieces where a particular method and form coalesce, the symbiosis resonates throughout the work.
For conversations with artists about art
Matthew Goodsmith interviews Victoria Rance for
Occupy My Time Gallery's Tipping the LineFrom Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper
(translated from the German)
6 September 2013
by Tom Billman
Of Monsters and Demons BBK Kunstquartier
It’s about demons, those ugly little monsters that lurk within us and sometimes forcefully push out to dominate our everyday lives: “The Sleep of Reason” is the title of an exhibition of works by Sylvia Lüdtke and Victoria Rance, which opens this evening at BBK in the art district.
It all began with Francisco de Goya, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" (1799) is an etching by the Spanish artist, in which a man falls exhausted on a table in the bedroom, meanwhile, bats, owls and sphinxes band together looming over him. Osnabrück artist Sylvia Lüdtke and her colleague from London Victoria Rance took this impressive work as a starting point for their artistic engagement with reason and what happens beyond Rationality. For one year they worked together on paintings, sculptures and objects specifically for this exhibition. They emailed ideas and suggestions, and discussed via Skype to realise the project. Now the Kunst-Kabinett of myths and dreams, and the nature of the subconscious in everyday life is ready for the public. Rance sat down to analyze figures from Norse mythology, and with the help of psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud and CG Jung, turned the archetypes into sculpture-like costumes to wear.
1- How did you start your work with Medusa?
I started working on the theme of Medusa after visiting the Byzan-
tine Cisterns in Istanbul. In 2008-9 I made work about Arachne (who
was turned into a spider by the envious Minerva) and back in 1996
a sculpture about Danae who was the mother of Perseus, so I had
already an interest in mythology, transformation and the human
characteristics which the stories of the gods portray. When I
saw the Medusa I was shocked by the physical presence of the
huge stone head upside-down in the water, and by the massive
(phallic) column on her head. Here she lies beneath the very
centre of old Istanbul, and it felt symbolic to me of a civilisation
being founded on the suppression of female power. I wanted to
reanimate her. Work about Perseus and his weapons and powers
came later. I wanted a contrast between the young boy and the
older woman, and also the unarmed woman and the boy with so
much help and so many weapons from the gods.
2- What is important in your work?
I have different interests. The symbolic and the story carried in
the work matters very much, I am interested in psychological
subjects which have a meaning now, but often have a long
history. This is why my work often refers back to the past,
past artworks, buildings, artefacts. I often visit museums and
am interested in history, ethnology and archaeology. I also
spend a great deal of time making things by hand, again with
reference to traditional crafts which I feel matter very much.
Working by hand is something so human, and is so satisfying.
I often fight with myself about using the computer, and
do it unwillingly. I am interested in feminism, which connects
to both the subjects and the use of crafts and making. I care
very much about how women are treated and worry sometimes
that our daughters may lose the gains in freedom and equality
we have now and which our mothers and grandmothers fought for.
3- Generally your work is black and white. Why black and white?
Does that have any meaning?
I like the immediate power of black and white. I find it seductive
and rich. It gives me a thrill which I can't explain. I do use colour
in my sculpture, and use shiny reflective surfaces, but for my animations and recent images I feel happier with the
excitement of black and white.
4- What is you thinking about power and politics of the body?
Also what do you think about beauty?
For me Medusa represents a powerful image for women. As I said
above, feminism matters to me very much. I want women to be
able to have control over their own bodies and not feel pressurised
to be slim or beautiful, or to hide themselves or to wear
particular clothes. I respect each woman's right to be able to make
their own choices, and sometimes they have to angrily protect that
right. As for beauty in art, I do want my work to have a strong
aesthetic quality, some artworks I make are shocking or frightening,
some are beautiful. In my animations I wanted Medusa to
remain powerful, so I left the end of the Medusa and
Perseus animation ambiguous.
He had so much help from the gods to kill her; all she had was
her angry stare! So I made her huge and powerful. A lot of
my work deals with protection of the vulnerable and fragile,
and how hard it is for sensitive people to exist in a world where
you often have to be hard and cynical and mistrustful of others.
How do we empower ourselves or look after the vulnerable?
My ‘sculpture to wear’ series deals with ways to imagine this.
I make sculptures like costumes and ask people to wear them and
be photographed in them, I want to capture a vulnerability in those
photographs and the animations which follow.
Space for a Woman: Walking through the city
September 11-16, 2011
The purpose of Victoria Rance’s research trip was to subjectively
experience personal and shared spaces in the city, in particular
she searched for ambivalence about spaces for women.
She wanted to experience how they are negotiated and
demarcated in comparison to those in London. Her quest began
at the Harem in Topkapi Palace, a historical designated space
for women that has played an important role in the western
imagination. She found the harem quieter, cooler, and more
pleasant than the rest of the palace filled with noisy tourists.
Similarly, in the mosques, the areas designed for women were
sheltered from the noisy hustle and bustle of everyday life. In
the Eminönü mosque, she witnessed children playing, chasing,
and learning to walk in the shared prayer space. She learned
that the demarcation of spaces is more complex than a westerner
see more 5533 website
Patrick Semple, Review of Bounty APT Gallery Deptford 2007
works there is here a sense of both
shelter and imprisonment.
A wall of steel flowers forms a shield like a
gauntlet. Their petals face inward allowing, no
doubt, the occupant an idea of the pastoral. But
if there is delicacy and decoration Space for a
Woman is also rough, threatening and not
a little medieval. It wraps its occupant into
a corner, forces them to stand and acts like a cage.
Nonetheless there is
beauty. And the piece is
a shelter; it's just difficult.
It may be small but
it is on a human scale.
And the occupant
can see out."
Review by Gavin Street of The Economist Plaza londonart.co.uk 2001
"Rance's steel sculpture plays on tensions
between old and new.
Its simple geometric form is essentially modernist, yet strongly evokes a much earlier age with a sense of spirituality that is at
odds with its modern environment.
Entering the sculpture's interior through a gap in the steel rods affords a rare moment of refuge, a reference to the church's role as sanctuary. Any sense of security is short lived however, as the converging struts draw our eyes upwards to accentuate the feeling of being penned in on
all sides by the towering office buildings."
"It may seem irreligious to suggest that the line between life and death is commonly crossed over, anyway. Victoria Rance's cage with open doors is delicately wrought out of material to create an essential place within a place. It is straightforwardly necessary for sculptors to create to control a place for atmosphere. The combination of church, which already predetermines certain expectations, and Rance's transparent mausoleum is strong. The whole place is brooding anyway and yet this suggests a stillness after the event, that something has already happened.
Rance desires to bring a certain level of tenderness
back into the situation; the priest might preach this
anyway, from the pulpit, but here given references
merge with artistic production."
Ann Elliott Fe2O5 catalogue
Darlington Arts Centre 2005
& APT Gallery 2006
"Victoria Rance creates apparently fragile
structures in steel.The resulting lace-like
patterns resemble decorative wraps or blankets
or fine silk veils. She works with memories
gathered from her past, reconsidered from a
current point of view. Religion, death and life
inform sculptures that become memento mori
or reflections of an unusual free-ranging
Attic 2004-05 is based in her recollections of
the 'Under 12's Camp Attic,' where Rance and childhood friends gathered, a secret place where older siblings were not permitted.
The sculpture is the evocation of a roof space, made from leaves purchased from the catalogue of decorative steel foliage and flowers. Rance has created a safe place, that is as much camouflage
tent or cover as it is an attic. Once assembled, the sculpture was sandblasted and sprayed successively
with hot zinc and hot copper. The resulting near terracotta colour further endows the work with the association of the roof hideaway. "
Victoria Rance The Mark Tanner
Standpoint Gallery, Hoxton
"A series of sculptures look like they have
something to do with places to shelter, or
protection, in the way that shells do. But
they also have an air of the residual about
them, as if what was once there has vacated
the safety of this shelter.
There are no literal narratives, rather,
they have an overall sense of humanity.
The absence of clear practical function
which these objects display further adds
a spirituality, or religious aspect to them
insofar as what we cannot see in terms of
practical function, we invent as metaphor
Charles Pickstone excerpt from
Paying Attention: The Sculpture of Victoria Rance
Charles Pickstone was the 2006 winner of the Bernard Denvir
AICA Memorial Award for Art Critics with this article, link:
Image Journal USA 2005 (ISSN 1087-3503)
"Rance's particular talent to evoke into
AICA Memorial Award for Art Critics with this article, link:
Image Journal USA 2005 (ISSN 1087-3503)
"Rance's particular talent to evoke into
almost visible form; a sort of alembic of
infinity. A work like this acts like a valley
of dry bones and almost compels the
viewer to clothe it with flesh. Whether this
"flesh" is actually narrative shape,
psychological analysis, historical association,
structural interpretation or material resonance
- all of which are perfectly possible - Rance
provides us with the phonemes of a visual
language, the minimal visual signifiers that
the viewer needs, once drawn into these works,
to participate in a language that speaks of the
richness, complexity and depth of life itself."