the Ship of Dreams and Nightmares
Since 2017 Dixon has initiated several collaborative projects, working with refugees and asylum seekers to give voice to their experiences. These projects culminated in the ceramic installation ‘Transient: The Ship of Dreams and Nightmares’, which took the form of a Mediterranean refugee boat. The installation draws upon the geographical similarity between the historic migration of maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware) and the migration routes of contemporary refugees and asylum seekers. The work is created from a series of suspended maiolica objects, each one representing either the dream of a new life in a place of refuge or the nightmare of conflict, displacement or forced migration. These objects, which range from a life jacket to a rocking horse were selected during online discussion groups with refugees and asylum seekers from the Burslem Jubilee Project based in Stoke-on-Trent.
The project was selected from a shortlist of 10 artists and awarded the British Ceramic Biennial 2021 prize for excellence, innovation and creative ambition. Alun Graves Senior Curator Ceramics and Glass V&A and Chair of the selection panel commented: ‘Stephen Dixon’s work – Transient: The Ship of Dreams and Nightmares – demonstrates ceramics’ ability to address the pressing issues of our times. It is outstanding in concept, design and execution. It engages meaningfully with the hopes and fears of migrant experience, painstakingly rendering in ceramic objects that have symbolic value for refugees and asylum seekers from the Burslem Jubilee Project. With great clarity, it represents their voices, while allowing his own artistic voice a quieter supporting role. As such it stands as a work of exceptional humanity, as well as one of remarkable aesthetic presence.’
Photos Johnny Magee
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