Artist's Statement: Stephen Dixon on his work at the International Ceramics Festival

By Ben Miller | 26 June 2013

International Ceramics Festival 2013: Stephen Dixon on his work in Aberystwyth...

A photo of a male artist staring at the camera
© Stephen Dixon
“Studio practice has been at the core of what I do since I graduated from the Royal College of Art way back in 1986, and I’ll be demonstrating some of my making processes at the festival, constructing loosely assembled, hand-built vessels and softly modelled forms - most likely ‘teapots’ with figurative lids.

There will also be a focus on ceramic printing processes and image layering techniques, using traditionally screen-printed images as well as digital and lazer-printed transfers.

I’ve always been interested in narrative, which has a long and important tradition in ceramics, and my work often has a political dimension, which connects with the democratic – as opposed to elitist – nature of print as a medium for visual narrative, for carrying a message.

The largest piece I’m showing comes from a body of work I started during a research residency at the V&A in 2009/2010, the Restoration Series.

This series of large portrait heads focussed on three Nobel Peace Prize winners, linked by the fact that none of them were able to collect their prize due to imprisonment for their political beliefs.

The Aung San Suu Kyi portrait was the prototype for the series, which is now complete and installed in the Contemporary Ceramics Gallery at the V&A.

The others in this series of political heroes are the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and the German pacifist Carl von Ossietsky.

I’ve become much more involved with one-off, site-specific works in recent years, particularly since I became Professor of Contemporary Crafts at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2007, which has opened up new avenues of exploration to me.

This aspect of contemporary making is on the increase, as ceramics, like other disciplines, seeks to engage with an expanded field of collaborative practice, working with makers from other disciplines and displaying work in new contexts.

Earlier this year I travelled to Ahmedabad in India to make an installation, Clocking On, in a derelict cotton mill, quickly followed by a trip to Pomona, California, to work with volunteers at the American Museum of Ceramic Art.

We built a large ceramic ship, the SS Argentina to celebrate the ‘special relationship’ - this was the ship which took the first group of GI war brides from Britain to the USA after World War II.

It’s not possible to show this kind of work at the Festival, but it will feature in my presentation, Ceramics and Political Narrative, in the Festival lecture series.”

  • The International Ceramics Festival runs June 28-30 2013. Visit internationalceramicsfestival.org for full details. Visit Culture24 between now and the end of the festival for interviews with more of the artists taking part.

More pictures:

An image of a sculpture of a human face
© Stephen Dixon
An image of various small white sculpted vessels placed on the floor of a warehouse
© Stephen Dixon
An image of various sculptures placed around a bright workshop space
© Stephen Dixon
A photo of a plate bearing a black etching of two nude biblical figures
© Stephen Dixon
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