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Feature Image: Roger Law, Artists at Work
Transported: Roger Law and Stephen Bird
Essay by Merran Esson
Edinburgh: The Scottish Gallery, 2016
This exhibition sprung from a friendship between artists Roger Law and Stephen Bird, a friendship that spans a decade; two men who relocated to Sydney from the UK in the 1990s with a passion for illustration. Roger Law arrived in Sydney, having nearly worked himself to death as a creator of the British TV show Spitting Image; he moved to Sydney to get away from the pressures of the show, and the fame.
A friend found him studio space in Sydney’s oldest jail, now the National Art School. “He was invited as an artist in residence and given a cell in the Ceramics department in block 24,” writes Merran Essen in her catalog essay. The pots he fired during this one-year residency would have a lasting impact on him.
Bird’s arrival in Australia was perhaps a little bit more comfortable because his father is Australian. He arrived with a studied technical understanding of glazing and firing. Originally a painter, Bird’s political cartoon adorned plates probably make for a great conversation starter at awkward family dinners. His work uses current political and cultural events as material, often illustrating his plates with military machinery and violence, but they also offer a titillating humor and childish quality.
Both artists moved to Australia for change. They saw something in Australia that Australians didn’t see, explains Esson in her essay. “Stephen Bird is definitely a part of a change in Australian ceramics. Australia has no ceramic history, ceramic influences came to Australia through trading routes, and after WWII Australian potters turned their eyes to the East. Fine porcelains from China and wood-fired tea bowls and blossom jars from Japan.”
In Transported, the two men come together as ceramicists, illustrators, artists who have been greatly influenced by Chinese pottery and friends.