In the Land of the Dodo
- Stephen Bowers
- In the Land of the Dodo
- Wheel-thrown earthernware, underglaze colour, clear glaze
- 7 x 61cm
For an artist who consciously works with ideas of cliché and things-taken-for-granted, Bowers incorporates sometimes unlikely subjects.
In the Land of the Dodo, 2013, a large blue
and white plate that depicts a dodo against a Willow pattern background, illustrates this perfectly. e ightless dodo bird, a type of large pigeon that made very good eating, was rst recorded by Dutch sailors in 1598 on the island of Mauritius. e bird was hunted by sailors and its habitat destroyed. By 1662 its population had collapsed and the hapless bird disappeared. Extinction of the dodo less than
a century a er its discovery drew attention to the hitherto unrecognised problem of human involvement in disappearance of entire species. e dodo achieved a kind of immortality
in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and
has since become a minatory symbol for
the stupidity of human-caused extinctions. Recorded images of the dodo are mostly known through seventeenth-century illustrations
and subsequent copies of them, from which
the image of the dodo on this plate derives.
e extinct and exotic creature stands like
an heraldic beast against a background of an imaginary Chinese landscape based on the Willow pattern design. is pattern, the most famous of all English blue and white chinoiserie ceramic designs, was created in England in c.1780. e pastiche of Chinese motifs was designed to appeal to a mass audience; it may well be the most commercially successful ceramic design ever. e formal structure of the elaborate patterned border of In the Land
of the Dodo is interrupted by a tree that grows from the side of the plate. is suggests that the plate should be viewed at a di erent orientation so that all is topsy-turvy. e extinction of the dodo and the Chinese derived imagery are directly related to European exploration, trade, colonisation and consumption, and to European ideas of the exotic, the foreign and the ‘other’. In this combination of images there are multiple readings and interpretations. Perhaps Bowers is asking ‘why is it, so many beautiful species end up on our plates?’
Christopher Menz, September 2016, with thanks to Stephen Bowers for his assistance.