Where the sour turns to sweet

19 September - 7 October 2018

Solo Show of New Paintings and Ceramics



Grounded in his training as a painter and fuelled by his inborn irreverence, mixed-media artist Stephen Bird is best known for his ceramic works: sculptures, plates, and vessels covered with exquisitely detailed, wry vignettes focused on the tragicomedy of the human condition.

Bird returns to Sydney this spring with a solo show of paintings and ceramics at Olsen Sydney Gallery entitled “Where the sour turns to sweet,” having spent the past 3 years producing and exhibiting his work around the globe including Norway, China, UK, Thailand and South Korea. The present show is a selection of paintings and ceramics which build on his narrative, myth infused repertoire. In these new works Bird seems to have travelled and “reached the edge of certainty beyond which conscious knowledge cannot pass”. There is a merging of figuration and the symbolic in these new works. Bird’s perception has shifted a little nearer the edge of perception, but as Jung recognised, beyond that we require the symbol. This shift is also implied by the title of the show which is taken from a song on the 1969 debut Genesis album “From Genesis to revelation.” The album was made when the band members were teens and still attending Charterhouse School, and was so progressive it was categorized as being psychedelic. Any psychedelic infused apparitions in Bird’s work collide firmly with the peculiarly Australian notion of melancholia or the Australian Gothic. The traces of landscape in Bird’s work are a strange hybrid of the Australian bush and the highlands of Bird’s native Scotland. Bird once said “The trouble with migration is you look up and you don’t recognize the clouds.” Resilience in the face of loss and tales of passage are recurring themes in Bird’s work. The narrative which evolves when viewing these works is shadowy and even transgressive at times as it weaves between the ceramic sculptures, painted plates and large to medium scale paintings.

Although Bird has become internationally renowned for his ceramic works over the past decade he has always remained slightly removed and aloof from any artist pigeon-hole. Eyeballs, fried eggs, Adam and Eve, Jesus, and Hindu and Buddhist deities are among the many images that recur in his compositions, which serve as vehicles for his satirical view of life. At once fastidious and cartoonish, Bird’s style is a mixture of close observation of his surroundings, imagination, and a democratic approach to painting, drawing, etching, sculpture, and, since the early 1990s, ceramics.

These current works are a testament to an artist who has danced to the beat of his own drum for almost 3 decades now. He has not only forged his own path, but also leads the viewer to some alternative netherworld where timeless myths evolve and engross with equal measure.

Look inside your mind
See the darkness is creeping in
I can see the softness there
Where the sunshine is gliding in
Fill your mind with love
Find the world of future glory
You can meet yourself
Where the sour turns to sweet

Lyrics by Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford