Stephen Dixon studied Fine Art at Newcastle University and Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1986. He is Professor Emeritus at Manchester School of Art, investigating contemporary narratives in ceramics. His work features in numerous public and private collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Museum of Arts & Design, New York; the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse; the British Council; the Crafts Council; the Royal Museum of Scotland and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He was a Trustee of the Crafts Council from 2009 to 2013 and a member of the Art and Design sub-panel for REF 2014 and REF 2021.
Early exhibitions in London with Contemporary Applied Arts and the Crafts Council established a reputation for ceramics with a biting political and social satire. Anatol Orient introduced Dixon’s figurative vessels to the U.S.A. in the early nineties, resulting in solo exhibitions at Pro-Art, St. Louis (1993) Garth Clark Gallery, New York (1995) and Nancy Margolis Gallery, New York (1998). Dixon's politically engaged ceramic practice was comprehensively surveyed in a major solo exhibition ‘The Sleep of Reason’, a twenty-year retrospective showcased at Manchester Art Gallery in 2005, which subsequently toured the U.K.
In 2006 Dixon travelled to Australia as part of The HAT Project, to investigate the effects of dislocation on the creation of cultural artefacts. This experience provoked a shift away from the ceramic vessel as a vehicle for narrative, towards intervention and installation works such as 'Bush Pantry' (2007), 'Monopoly' (2009) and 'Letters from Tripoli' (2011). He was awarded the inaugural V&A ceramics studio residency in 2009, where he embarked on a new body of work exploring political portraiture. ('Restoration Series' 2011-2013).
Dixon combines his studio ceramic practice with public engagement and community arts projects. In 2000 he received an Arts Council Year of the Artist award for ‘Asylum’, a collaborative project with Amnesty International U.K. and Kosovan refugees. The public engagement projects 'Resonance', 'Resonate' and 'The Lost Boys' examined commemoration and the material resonance of archives and objects, in the context of the centenary of the First World War (2014-2018). ‘Passchendaele: mud and memory’ focused specifically on the materiality of the conflict and the outcome, a portrait sculpture made using terracotta clay sourced from the Flanders battlefield is on permanent display at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Passchendaele.
The Arts Council funded project ‘Maiolica and Migration’ (2020-2022) examined the issue of refugees and asylum seekers, comparing the contemporary journey of migrants across the Mediterranean into Europe with the historic ‘migration’ of white tin-glazed earthenware. One significant outcome, ‘The Ship of Dreams and Nightmares’ took the form of a Mediterranean refugee boat, representing refugees’ experiences of the nightmare of conflict and displacement and the dream of refuge in a place of safety. It won the prestigious British Ceramics Biennial AWARD in 2021.
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