Holly Stevenson, The Debate, 2023

Presented by Pi Artworks and Sid Motion Gallery


About the work

Holly Stevenson’s The Debate is a ceramic installation comprised of two near life-size adult figures and half of an oversized boiled egg. Typical of the artist’s practice, the figures combine abstract and figurative elements, which, following the glazing process, form anthropomorphic birds reminiscent of ducks. Depending on the direction of approach of the viewer, the figures seem to be looking either at a complete egg with the potential for hatching, or one half of a bisected boiled egg.    

The artist’s interest lies in the duck and the egg being traditional ceramic forms. Ducks being one of the avian world’s greatest migrants has given them long-held significance in the creative realm, and since the advent of pottery, they have been sculpted in clay. Likewise, the egg has enjoyed widespread ceramic popularity, often used as a trompe l’oeil. More curiously, the terracotta egg was used as a Talmudic measurement in the ancient world. Here, the egg cannot be intentionally read as a singular symbolic gesture, rather it is positioned as a challenge to our food-chain supply and to reference the quintessential life debate: whether we perceive our experience of living as being half-full or half-empty.     

Stevenson nods to the playful, uncanny, sculptures of pop art, which impacted both outdoor artwork and inventively referenced female reproductivity. Here, the egg can be read as a body clock, while the two figures whose elongated torsos rise from striped canopic-shaped jars ultimately evade gender categorization. 

The Debate is the artist’s largest ceramic work to-date, and within the realm of the public park, it seeks to inspire a multitude of questions, everything from ducks, eggs and reproduction, to picnics and cannibalism. There is something both charming and monstrous about a bird and half a boiled egg sharing space, and, as the title implies, debates in today’s socio-political climate are not singular, but complex and multifaceted. 

Audio guide


About the artist

During her history of art degree at Glasgow University, Holly Stevenson (b. 1975) wrote a dissertation on Roman souvenirs from the 1600s to the present day. With the generous help of the Stanley Picker Trust she went on to achieve a Fine Art MA from Chelsea College of Art and Design after which she gained an MFI Flat Time House Graduate Award, supported by the John Latham Foundation. Works from her ongoing psychoanalytic project ‘Sigmund Freud’s Ashtray’ have been shown nationally, and in the recent show ‘Body Poetics’ her practice was paired with that of Louise Bourgeois. Stevenson participated in ‘Laboratorio Piramide’, which concluded with a show at Richard Saltoun, Rome. She completed a ceramic public art commission for The CoLAB’s Artist’s Garden and an offsite project for Sid Motion Gallery in which she substituted JW Anderson’s shoes for ceramic ones. 

Learn more about The Debate with our film with the artist.


For more information, please visit the gallery website: Pi Artworks and Sid Motion Gallery 

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