Sculptors Emma Rodgers and Johnny Vegas exhibit new works

The Walker Art Gallery and the Bluecoat Display Centre have partnered to present Metamorphosis, a selection of new works by sculptors Emma Rodgers and Johnny Vegas.  

St Helens-based comedian Johnny Vegas is perhaps best known for his surreal sense of humour, however he originally trained in art and ceramics at the University of Middlesex.

During the COVID pandemic, Johnny found solace in creativity, and three decades after he graduated, he returned to the studio following a chance encounter with Wirral-based sculptor Emma Rodgers.

Together, they have created new works inspired by the Walker’s collections, exploring the idea of ‘metamorphosis’ – meaning a mental or physical transformation.  

Vegas’ work draws from his experiences living with ADHD, which he has described as an “accursed blessing”, and concepts of flight, faith, and fear of failure are prominent in his sculptures. He has described his return to sculpture as, “an unfinished part of my story”.  

Rodgers is recognised worldwide for her animal sculptures, including the world’s largest Liver Bird, a work comprised of giant, oversized Meccano pieces. In Metamorphosis, her works imagine demonic creatures conveying the nightmare of broken sleep, and the escape made possible through flight. 

Johnny Vegas said, “Currently, flight, faith, fear of failure and broken/tested faith, are the subjects most fluent in my work. Emotional evolution and how best I can express that in 2D or 3D forms. A thought process, be it linked to hope or fear, captured in time.  

“I’ve a head full of butterflies and all of them designed with unique intentions of distraction from the task at hand. When I think to exhibit I’m compelled to try and recreate in clay or oil what I’ve caught in my net that day… before it is once more set free to distract me from the hurried and sometimes ill-constructed expectations of normality.” 

Emma Rodgers said, “Confrontation, energy, curiosity, essence of a moment and interaction are the main elements that initially draw me to a new subject and are indicative of the very nature of the animals I have depicted.  

“When approaching a new body of work I produce a large amount of visual research. Sketching is particularly important as it provides me with a greater understanding of the form. I aim to interpret these drawn qualities into clay and remove the work from pure representation.

“A jagged line in ink is re-interpreted as a torn clay edge; an arc of soft pencil becomes a soft fold. The energy of the animal and the tautness of the pose are conveyed by a distortion in the medium.” 

Works from Metamorphosis will be on display at the Walker Art Gallery until 31 March 2025, while the selling exhibition at Bluecoat Display Centre runs until 15 June 2024. 

Image: Johnny Vegas, ‘Jester’ 2023. Credit: © Pete Carr

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