'The Last Supper' box

Stoneware, c1992

On this box, the maker Stephen Dixon is portraying a scene that at first glance seems a light hearted and merry occasion. He is, however, presenting an allegory - a symbolic story or picture - in which the scene depicted has a more ominous and moral meaning behind it.

The box shows three contorted figures standing around a table set with food and drink. The central character, grasping a large plum pudding, stands between a pair of two headed figures. Around them, hungry dog-like creatures chew on scraggy bones.

With a combination of fantasy, humour and biting satire, Dixon comments on some of the political, environmental and social concerns of the day. In this case it is the 'Earth Summit' on the environment held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The figures at the table represent the forces or nations squabbling over the Earth's resources. On closer inspection, the Christmas pudding is the 'Earth' with a sprig of holly on top. The contrast between the greedy central characters and the scrawny dogs perhaps points to the widening divide between rich and poor. Even the title of the piece - 'The Last Supper' - forewarns us of the possibility that, for man and the environment, time may have already run out.