Mark Thompson


Mark Thompson

Pot Head ceramic approximately 37cm high

Mark Thompson The Enigma by Stephen Bowers

Allusion in the throw-away title Of Meissen Men suggests Thompson is at once concerned with the resonance of historical achievement and its quotidian echoes. This is polished legerdemain. With his unsettled figures, their deprecating gestures, strange habits, surreal juxtapositions and underlying disturbance of weird wonderland, this is pottery that purrs like a Cheshire cat.

Few manipulate clay in this manner. Collectable since birth it would seem, the ageless enfant terrible of Australian ceramics, Thompson’s signature of informed but elusive fantasy is always uncommonly skillfully executed and powerful. Vitrification and verisimilitude only add to the candied, cheesy, cabinet-of-curiosity peek-a-boo deception/revelation of his works. Like the questionable nocturnal attractions in the carnival in Ray Bradbury’s Something wicked this way comes (Simon & Schuster, 1962) the familiar is revoked and other dimensions, more menacing, are offered.

On one level Thompson’s works might be seen as offering smirking ripostes, jokey jocular barbs, edgy entendres, puns and lampoons. On another level they are less accessible, more suggestive, strange and disquieting. Contradictions and the push-pull of recognition versus revulsion, attraction versus repulsion are constantly at play. Tensions resolve slowly. Like the xenogenetic brood parasites in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos (Michael Joseph, 1957) strange substitutions seem to take place. In one work, a naked baby, prone, soft tissues distorted by sleep, lies on a tumescent golden pillow, afloat on an ultra marine tattooed vessel, adrift in the gilded tidal fold of an unconscious symbolic sea. Untouched by regard, oblivious to concern, the child yet makes an impression, not just because of the indisposition of posture and diminutive proportions, but because of a vague unease. Soft is rendered hard, hard looks soft. After the Long March comes the Long Sleep “ and Dreams of Red Mansions and the porcelain mountains of China, at once exotic and familiar and such is the baby, absent, dreaming.

Thompson retains something of the prized arcane traditions of the great 17th century Meissen hard-paste modeller Johann Joachim Kandler “ but is it only something? Are these Chinoiserie dolls and figurines meant to be nic-nacks for semi-detached urban palaces? conversation pieces for medium security condominiums? mantle-piece reassurances of 3D figuration in the age of the flat screen? Perhaps; but, as well as the familiar, in creeps the realisation that we are gazing on elements of a staged, glossy (but haunted) carnival world. But this is not just about virtuosity, though certainly few can model clay like Thompson.

Look again, for these at-first-glance sideshow diversions of phantasmagoria hint at darker secrets. Thompson’s tableaus enter our consciousness like actors emerging from the wings in an opera where the main event takes place upon that spectral stage; the recesses of the mind.

An artist long devoted to the lost causes of notorious public characters, including actors, alchemists, apparitions, boulevardists, brats, coiners, collectors, conjurers, filibusters, flaneurs, footpads, fortune tellers, fraudsters, highwaymen, housebreakers, idlers, incendiaries, larrikins, muses, mutineers, palmists, pickpockets, pirates, rake-hells, receivers, rioters, scholars, sharpers, scribblers, sots, subscribers, swindlers, tinkers and other persons of noted habit who deserve a break. Thompson puts polish on these tarnished regimental enlisted, and offers up their images as redemptive (if minatory) mementos.

Mark Thompson

1949 Born Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Lives in NSW
1969-72 Randwick Technical College, Sydney, NSW
1973 Diploma of Fine Art (Painting), South Australian School of Art, Adelaide, SA
1976 Diploma in Design (Ceramics) South Australian School of Art, Adelaide, SA
Masters, Fine Art, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA

Solo Exhibitions

Contemporary Art Society, Adelaide, SA, 1971; 1972;
Norwood Galleries, Adelaide, SA, 1974;
Bonython Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1975;
Ceramics and Porcelain Dolls, Jam Factory Gallery, Adelaide, SA, 1976;
Collectors Gallery, Perth, WA, 1976;
Mark Thompson: Ceramic objects, Festival Centre Gallery, Adelaide, SA, 1977;
Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1978;
Mark Thompson, Bonython Art Gallery, Adelaide, SA, 1980;
Mark Thompson: Ceramic sculpture, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1980;
The Pavilion of Death, Dreams and Desire, The Rotunda, Elder Park, Adelaide, SA, Adelaide Festiavl of Arts 1982;
Mark Thompson: Private Faces, Public Places, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1983;
Forces of Resilience, Jam Factory Gallery, Adelaide, SA, 1984;
Mark Thompson: Sculpture, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1998; 2002
Mark Thompson: “Appropriations” : Paintings , Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 2009
Mark Thompson,”More Appropriations “ paintings . BMG Gallery , Adelaide SA 2009
Mark Thompson “ A singular vice” BMG ART Festival 2012, Adelaide SA (ceramics)
Mark Thompson “Of Meissen Men” ROBIN GIBSON GALLERY 2014, Adelaide SA (ceramics)
Mark Thompson “ The Brothers Grim” BMG ART 2016 Festival , Adelaide SA (ceramics)
Mark Thompson, Robin Gibson Gallery (works on paper, paintings & ceramics) 2017
Mark Thompson, Robin Gibson Gallery (paintings & ceramics) 2019

Selected Group Exhibitions

Outlook ’71, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, 1971;
Young Artist Award, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, 1974;
30 Craftsmen from South Australia, Ararat Gallery, Ararat, Vic, 1976;
Mayfair Ceramic Award Exhibition, Toorak Gallery, Melbourne, Vic, 1976;
Inaugural Exhibition, Crafts Council Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1977;
Mayfair Ceramic Award Exhibition, Sydney, NSW, 1978;
Collection Pieces, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic, 1978;
Caltex Sculpture Award, Adelaide Festival of Arts, Royal Adelaide Society of ArtsSA, 1978;
Blackfriars Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1978;
Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, NSW, 1978;
Australian Crafts Touring Exhibition 1978
Victorian Ministry for the, Meat Market Craft Centre, Melbourne, Vic, 1978;
The Masters Choice, Royal South Australian Society of Arts, Adelaide, SA, 1978;
Lots of Pots, The Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, NSW, 1978;
Still Life Still Lives, Art Gallery Directors’ Council travelling exhibition, 1979;
The Kangaroo in Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic, 1979;
The Art of Craft, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, 1979;
Miniature Objects Crafts Council of South Australia Survey Exhibition, Adelaide, SA, 1980;
Australian Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, 1982;
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Launceston, Hobart, Tas, 1982;
Recent South Australian Sculpture, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, 1982;
Forces of Resilience, Jam Factory, Adelaide, SA, 1984;
Skangaroovian Funk, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, 1986;
Maker’s Choice III, Crafts Council of South Australia touring exhibition, 1990;
Robin Gibson Gallery 2007 Group Show
Jam Factory Gallery, Ceramic appropriations, Adelaide 2009

Recent Art Prizes

Fishers Ghost Prize City of Campbeltown NSW 2007 – selected finalist
Kilgore Prize – Newcastle NSW 2007 – selected finalist
Duke Prize 2007 – Gold Coast – QLD – selected finalist
Gallipoli Prize – Sydney – NSW 2008 – selected finalist
Swan Prize – Perth – WA 2008 – selected finalist
Redlands Prize QLD 2008 – selected finalist
EMSLA Coffs Harbour “ NSW – 2008 – selected finalist
Kilgore Prize “ Newcastle – NSW 2008 – selected finalist
Archibald Prize “Sydney – NSW 2009 – selected finalist
EMSLA Coffs Harbour , NSW 2009 “ Still life “ Selected finalist
Redlands Prize “ QLD 2009 – Selected finalist
Shirley Hannon Portrait Prize “Bega NSW- 2016 Selected finalist
30th Gold Coast International Ceramic Art Award 2016 “Qld- Selected finalist
44th Musselbrook Art Prize – 2017- WORKS ON PAPER “Selected Finalist
44th Musselbrook Art Prize – 2017-Ceramics “ Selected Finalist


Art Gallery and Museum of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT;
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA;
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, WA;
Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat, Vic;
Corporation of City of Adelaide Collection, Adelaide, SA;
Edith Cowan University, Perth, WA;
Melbourne University Collection, Melbourne, Vic;
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT;
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic;
New England University, Armidale, NSW;
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, NSW;
Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery, Launceston, Tas;
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Qld;
Royal South Australian Society of Arts, Adelaide, SA;
University of New South Wales Collection, Sydney, NSW;
Western Australian Institute of Technology, Perth, WA;
Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong, NSW;

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