A few notes on the ceramic work of Hélène Baril.
Hélène Baril is an internationally renowned pioneering ceramic artist and is often additionally recognized for her innovative work in painting, drawing, installation, and public art. Baril’s innovative, accessible style, rather deceptive in its simplicity, has achieved wide acclaim, not only in the art world, but also among casual patrons whose knowledge of ceramics or pottery is limited. She often works with the familiar, but insists that her concepts are far too layered in meaning to be described as simply representational. While Baril shyly demurs at the accumulated superlatives often used to describe her ceramic works, make no mistake; she is both passionate and patient in her ceramic practice. “That’s what we should all be doing in life: Finding moments of great joy,” says Baril.
Baril’s technique is considered conceptual, firmly rooted in modernism and her process is based on intuitive observation and manipulation of all interacting materials. Like the tempered hand of her mentor Jun Kaneko, Baril's measured orchestration of the interplay of clay, form, surface, pattern and color, is toward the extraction of an ultimate harmony in technique, materials and visuals. Her technical aptitude comes from years of patience and a keen understanding of her temperamental medium. Baril’s simplified oversized forms and her evident control of her materials make the pieces appear effortless. While Baril shies away from the label of whimsical, there is clearly a sense of humor present in her work. She often pokes fun at what she has called the self-seriousness of minimalism and abstraction.
In this diverse age of artistic pluralism, retrospection and cynicism, Hélène Baril 's ceramic sculptures prevail as confirmations of essential constancies. The certainties of an elemental graphic urge, the determinism of archetypal shapes, and the symbiosis of time and space are all revealed in her three-dimensional abstractions. While her medium is clay, she has long ago set aside the pots and craftiness stereotypically associated with it and Instead uses it to create elegant, sophisticated sculptures. Baril's work evokes a sense of wonder and playfulness seen in the best of post-modernism.
Susan E. Evans