Norwich exhibition looks at Roger Law's journey from Spitting Image to ceramics
PUBLISHED: 21:30 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:22 23 November 2017
From Spitting Image to ceramics, a new exhibition looks at the highlights of Roger Law's extraordinary career. Arts correspondent Emma Knights finds out more.
Roger Law is best known as a co-creator of the legendary satirical television series Spitting Image, but these days he spends time crafting beautiful ceramic pots.
From Satire to Ceramics - a new exhibition at Norwich’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts - brings together the extraordinary highlights of his entire career.
“It’s all based on drawing,” said Mr Law, explaining there are more links than you may think between the Spitting Image puppets and his more recent works.
“It works in different mediums but it’s pretty much the same thing - the puppets are as ugly as ever and the pots are hopefully as beautiful as the puppets are ugly!”
The exhibition is split into sections, with the Newspaper and Magazine Office looking at his early career in the Sunday Times art department, and the Studio Workshop exploring his time in Cambridge and his collaboration with Peter Fluck, with who he would become a fellow Spitting Image co-creator.
The third section is the Caricature Factory which looks at the rise of the Spitting Image show which ran from 1984 until 1996 and famously transformed key politicians and famous figures of the day into caricatures.
There is also a new addition to this section - a puppet of US president Donald Trump which Mr Law revealed for the first time at the Sainsbury Centre, and created because he was approached by US network NBC about potentially making an American spin-off of the show.
“He’s pretty disgusting, unfortunately I think the puppet isn’t quite disgusting enough, we may have to make it again!” he said
“I don’t quite know what you do with Trump because he satirizes himself.”
While a US Spitting Image may be in the pipeline, Mr Law does not want to be involved in bringing the show back to UK television - although he admits many modern day characters would be prime Spitting Image material.
“The ghastly Gove would make a very good puppet and of course there’s Boris,” he said.
When asked what first sparked Spitting Image off in the 1980s, he said: “I think it was Thatcher really. You have to remember at that time the country was as divided as it is now, but there were riots in the streets and there were fights in the streets, so you really wanted a vehicle to be able to discuss things.”
More than 1,000 puppets were made by the Spitting Image team, but which were Mr Law’s favourites?
“The Queen was one, she was on almost every week, and eventually we managed to make a Thatcher. We made three, one for when she was angry, one for when she was talking to you as if your dog had died and patronising you and one in neutral, so we could change the heads,” he said.
“Douglas Hurd with his hair as an ice-cream cone was always a winner.”
About the making of the puppets, Mr Law said: “They would be drawn, they would then be modelled, they would then go to be moulded and the mould would come back. You would fill it full of foam rubber, take the foam rubber out, dry it overnight, then you put a skull in, the eyes in, and any mechanisms you wanted, and that would then go to the paint room to be painted, and then off to wardrobe for its costume. So you can imagine what it was like when they wanted a puppet by the next day. We did make puppets overnight, they weren’t very good puppets but they were on screen when they needed to be!”
When asked what effect he thought Spitting Image had on the politics of its day, Mr Law said: “I don’t think it changed a thing...About the only thing it really did achieve was that school children and lots of people that had no interest in politics suddenly knew who was running the country and that was no bad thing.”
When Spitting Image finished, Mr Law’s career went in a different direction and the fourth part of the exhibition - called Jingdezhen - looks at this.
“We always had made pottery as a light relief,” he said.
“The workshop was there with all the materials. There was the Ronald Reagan coffee pot, the Mrs Thatcher teapot, the royal egg cups, put the egg in, crack the top and then they are wearing a crown. There was all that nonsense and then I met a potter who introduced me to ceramics as a fine art.”
When Spitting Image was over Mr Law headed to Australia and explored the country and its wildlife with his sketchbook. From here he went to China.
“A Chinese Australian took me to the city of Jingdezhen in China. It is known as the porcelain city, everybody makes pots and they are really skilled at it, everybody specialised like we used to do, so it was too good not to get involved.”
Now a major ceramic artist, he uses his drawings from Australia to decorate his pots large and small, and having now lived in Wells in north Norfolk for a number of years, sketches from the county are also inspiring his designs.
“You’ve got cromer crabs jumping about all over the place, you’ve got mackerel everywhere, and you’ve got meadows with wildflowers,” he said.
“Again everything starts with the drawings.”
The exhibition runs until April 3 2018. Visit www.scva.ac.uk