Vivienne Foley (Ceramics & Bronze)

  • Overview
    The excitement and challenge for me is to produce flowing, harmonious forms from a process fraught with interruption. I try to factor in all the variables knowing that during drying, glazing and firing, the pieces will take on a life of their own and that no two forms are ever the same.

    Her porcelain is organic and delicate, creating a sense of complex harmony in form. Although she takes influence from her study of Chinese porcelains, her work is undoubtedly contemporary and unique. Her technique involves combining thrown and constructed elements and pushing the limitations of her material. While some of her pieces fulfil the functional purpose of a vessel, her work is truly appreciated purely in a sculptural context.

    The most recent development of her practice is a series of bronze sculptures based on her porcelains, exploring the characteristics of two different materials which share ancient and dynamic histories.

    Her ceramics are held by the National Museum of Ireland and the Ulster Museum collections. During her term, President Mary Robinson of Ireland acquired numerous works of Vivienne's for presentation to Heads of State, Ministers and Ambassadors. Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia and former US President Bill Clinton were recipients of these gifts.

    Further collections include:
    York Museums Trust, UK
    Leeds Museums and Galleries, UK
    Southampton City Art Gallery, UK
    Crafts Council of Ireland, Dublin
    Limerick City Art Gallery, Ireland
    Royal Household, Sweden
    Irish Embassy, Berlin
    Chaim Hertoz - former President of Isreal
    Jacques Chirac - former President, France
    Alliance Capital, London
    Rolex, London
    Coutts Bank, London
    Ford, UK

    Vivienne Foley Porcelain, a comprehensive survey, was published in November 2007. Containing 140 pages with 100 illustrations, the book includes a foreword by Audrey Whitty, Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland. 

    Prices for ceramics £750 - £5,000.
    Prices bronzes £6,500-£12,000.
  • Works
  • Audrey Whitty Essay, Audrey Whitty is Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland. Prior to 2019,...

    Audrey Whitty Essay

    Audrey Whitty is Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland. Prior to 2019, she was Curator of Ceramics, Glass and Asian Collections at the same institution.
    When Vivienne Foley established her studio in Ireland at Whitegate,  Co.  Clare, in  1979,  it  marked  a  significant turning point  in  the history  of  20th-century  Irish  ceramics.  She  was  the  first  female  artist  working  in  the  medium of porcelain to independently set up her own workshop, calling to mind the I 920s/30s Irish ceramic artist Kathleen Cox, even though Cox had worked predominantly in earthenware.  Acquisition  by  the  National Museum of Ireland in 1982 of a bowl with barium glaze confirmed her status  as  a leading  light of the  Irish applied arts world, in no small part due to the fact that accession of contemporary material by the HMI throughout the 1980s had been intermittent.

    Since 2000 this situation has been reversed, proving all the more the importance of the original Vivienne Foley purchase by the institution. Despite her obvious characteristic of vessel development involving abstract proportions and line, her move to sculptural work over the past decade is, in many respects, quite revolutionary. The simple change from vertical to  the horizontal  placement  of  form  in association with the play of light has been stunningly achieved, particularly in relation to the Strange Attractor series and ‘Long Ribbed Forms’. All of these more installation-based pieces are grounded, as  with  all  of  her artistic output, in the study of fine Song Dynasty wares. It is in this  area  that  her  artistic  legacy  in  an  Irish context will be strongest. Although there are Irish artists working in clay, such as Deirdre McLoughlin and Robert Lee, under strong Asian influence, it is primarily one of Japanese aesthetics, whereas Foley’s oeuvre is  wholly Chinese in origin. Another  overriding  effect  of the  grace  and  sleekness  evident  in  her  work, as  remarked upon by Fiona Sibley, is the modernism  of Brancusi's  sculpture. It is the  realisation  of this merging  of  Far  Eastern material culture with art of the avant-garde that lingers in the psyche of the spectator, and is perhaps her most profound gift to the history of the subject on a European level.
  • Exhibitions



    Patrick Davies Contemporary Art, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2020
    Solomon Fine Art, Dublin, 2016
    Vessel Gallery, London, 2014, 2011, 2008
    Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2009
    James Graham & Sons, New York, 2008, 2004, 2001, 1998, 1995
    Jorgensen Fine Art, Dublin, 1997
    Kenny Gallery, Galway 1996, 1994
    Keramik Museum, Westerwald, Germany, 1994
    European Modern Art Gallery, Dublin, 1992, 1992
    Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, Ireland, 1986
    Liberty, London, England, 1982
    Kilkenny Desgin, Dublin, Ireland, 1981

    Solomon Fine Art, Dublin, 2016
    Jorgensen Fine Art, Dublin, 2013
    Le Blance Gallery (with Patrik Marsh), 2013
    Kardamili Gallery, Greece, 2012