Mark Thompson


Mark Thompson

Thought you might hear laughing, spinning, swinging madly across the sun 65cm high earthenware, gold lustre (wallpiece)

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.


Born Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Lives in NSW
Randwick Technical College, Sydney, NSW
Diploma of Fine Art (Painting), South Australian School of Art, Adelaide, SA
Diploma in Design (Ceramics) South Australian School of Art, Adelaide, SA
Masters, Fine Art, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
Mark Thompson is currently painter, an exhibition designer and event consultant

Solo Exhibitions

Contemporary Art Society, Adelaide, SA
Contemporary Art Society, Adelaide, SA
Norwood Galleries, Adelaide, SA
Bonython Gallery, Sydney, NSW, 1975
Ceramics and Porcelain Dolls, Jam Factory Gallery, Adelaide, SA
Collectors Gallery, Perth, WA
Mark Thompson: Ceramic objects, Festival Centre Gallery, Adelaide, SA, 1978 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney, NSW
Mark Thompson, Bonython Art Gallery, Adelaide, SA
Mark Thompson, Ceramic sculpture, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
The Pavilion of Death, Dreams and Desire, The Rotunda, Elder Park, Adelaide, SA
Mark Thompson: Private Faces, Public Places, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
Forces of Resilience, Jam Factory Gallery, Adelaide, SA
Mark Thompson: Sculpture, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney, NSW
Paintings, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney

Group Exhibitions

Outlook ’71, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
Young Artist Award, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
30 Craftsmen from South Australia, Ararat Gallery, Ararat, Vic
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Aldgate Crafts, Adelaide, SA
Mayfair Ceramic Award Exhibition, Toorak Gallery, Melbourne, Vic
Inaugural Exhibition, Crafts Council Gallery, Sydney, NSW
Mayfair Ceramic Award Exhibition, Sydney, NSW
Collection Pieces, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic
Caltex Sculpture Award, Adelaide Festival of Arts, Royal Adelaide Society of Arts, Adelaide, SA
Blackfriars Gallery, Sydney, NSW
Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, NSW
Australian Crafts Touring Exhibition
Victorian Ministry for the Arts Purchasing Exhibition, Meat Market Craft Centre, Melbourne, Vic
The Masters Choice, Royal South Australian Society of Arts, Adelaide, SA
Lots of Pots, The Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, NSW
Still Life Still Lives, Art Gallery Directors’ Council travelling exhibition
The Kangaroo in Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic
The Art of Craft, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
Miniature Objects Crafts Council of South Australia Survey Exhibition, Adelaide, SA
Australian Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Launceston, Hobart, Tas
Greenhill Galleries, Perth, WA
Recent South Australian Sculpture, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
Off the hoardings and into the Gallery: a survey of recent Australian political posters, Tasmanian School of Art Gallery, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tas
Art & Working Life: a work-n-progress exhibition celebrating the SA United Trades and Labour Council’s centenary, City Cross, Adelaide, SA
Forces of Resilience, Jam Factory, Adelaide, SA
Skangaroovian Funk, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
Maker’s Choice III, Crafts Council of South Australia touring exhibition


Fishers Ghost, Campbelltown NSW – finalist
Kilgour Prize, Newcastle – finalist
Duke Prize, Gold Coast – finalist
Gallilopoli Prize, Sydney – finalist
Swan Prize, Perth – finalist
Redlands Prize, Qld – finalist
Coffs Harbour, still life – finalist
Kilgour Prize, Newcastle – finalist
Archibald Prize, AGNSW, Sydney – 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
  • Arts Victoria Festival Collection, Melbourne, Vic
  • 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
  • NSW Bar Association, Sydney, 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
  • S C Johnson & Sons, Racine WI, USA
  • Shepparton Arts Centre, Shepparton, Vic
  • Sydney College Of Advanced Education, Sydney, NSW
  • University of New South Wales Collection, Sydney, NSW
  • Western Australian Institute of Technology, Perth, WA
  • Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong, NSW

Design Career

  • Mark Thompson has worked as a theatre and corporate/event designer since 1984 as well as a ceramic sculptor with thirteen solo sculpture exhibitions in Australia. Major event work includes Timor’s Day Celebrations for the UN and Three New Eve’s Celebrations for the City of Sydney-Harbour Bridge, The Asian Games in Doha 2006, NYE2006 Event design for the City of Sydney,
  • Recent work includes Orpheus In The Underworld and Lakme for Opera Australia & Opera d’ Montreal and Midnite ,, as well as the theatre production design of Morning Sacrifice, The Way of the World and The Breath of Life for the Sydney Theatre Company and Orpheus In The Underworld and Lakme for Opera Australia & Opera d’ Montreal and Midnite , Two Weeks with the Queen and The Snow Queen for Windmill Performing Arts and Uncle Vanya for the State Theatre Company of South Australia, The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber concert for Beijing and Shanghai
    Current production design work includes the forthcoming production of Glorious for the Ensemble Theatre and Hatpin – a new Australian Musical
  • Select List of Major Organisations and Companies
  • The Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations, East Timor Independence Day Celebrations
  • The Really Useful Company
  • The City of Sydney
  • The Syney Opera House
  • The Australian Opera
  • Opera de Montreal
  • The Adelaide Festival Centre
  • The State Theatre Comany of South Australia
  • The Sydney Theatre Company
  • The Ensemble Theatre Company
  • West Australian Theatre Company
  • West Australian Performing Arts Academy
  • Australian Entertainment Industry Association (Helpman Awards)
  • Monkeebaa Theatre Company
  • Adelaide Festival of Arts
  • Madame Tussauds Australasia Tour – Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong
  • Nimrod Theatre Company
  • Windmill Performing Arts Company
  • Bennett and Coleman (The Times of India Group)
  • Singapore Ntional Day Ceremony Design
  • Dagoc Asian Games 2006 Doha
  • Minnesota Opera

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