Stephen Dixon is Professor of Contemporary Crafts at Manchester School of Art, investigating contemporary narratives in ceramics. Specific research interests include the British satirical tradition (in both printmaking and ceramics), commemorative wares and ‘pop’ culture, and the development of socio-political narratives in contemporary ceramics. He is also Crafts Research Group Leader.
His work features in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Arts & Design, New York, the British Council, the Crafts Council, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Museum of Scotland, and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.
Dixon studied Fine Art at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1986. 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 and touring the U.K. from March to October of that year.
In 2006 Dixon travelled to Australia to investigate the effects of dislocation on the creation of cultural artefacts, for 'Beyond the Seas', an AHRC funded practice-led research project. 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 regular forays into public and community arts;
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.
He curated the exhibition '200 Years: Slavery Now' in 2007, exploring issues of contemporary slavery in the year of the Bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade.
In 2010 he took part in 'the Pol Project' in India, working alongside MIRIAD colleagues to explore issues of sustainability in Dal Ni Pol, Ahmedabad. ('Hero' 2010)
Professor Dixon was a Trustee of the Crafts Council from 2009 to 2013, and was a member of the Art and Design sub-panel for HEFCE REF 2014.
Political commentary is more often the cartoonist’s mechanism, but Dixon has found earthenware his mode for outpourings of wicked, occasionally acidic, societal criticism. Kitschy vessels play out a drama upon their surface, and here ‘Whore of the World’ offers a particularly expressive example — its design as close to grotesque cake decoration or Aardman model as sculpture. The female figure, restlessly symbolic of royalty, liberty and Western civilisation at large, seems to be enjoying herself amongst her small carnival and corgis — but the creeping inquiry of the artist seems to, “at what cost?”