Image of the Liverpool Cathedral

Emma Rodgers

Oration

Presented by: Pauline Daniels

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Emma Rodgers for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Described by art critic and curator David Whiting “as one of Britain’s leading ceramic sculptors”, artist Emma Rodgers has pioneered new boundaries for age-old mediums of clay and bronze pushing them to the edge of their elasticity to create powerful, challenging, delicate, tender, disturbing and yet ethereally beautiful statuary.

Her wild hares, bulls and ravens, her human dancers are often expressed in a heightened sense of movement or tension, absorbed in the trials and dramas of existence. By depicting her subjects in their most raw state, without “tamed sentimentality or saccharine blandness”, she somehow manages to capture what can’t be seen but what is universally present: their life force.

Born in 1974, Emma’s love of ceramics was cemented during her GCSE in Art and Design and Ceramics. After completing her BTec diploma, and then pre-foundation and foundation courses in art and design at Wirral Metropolitan College, she left Merseyside to go to Wolverhampton University in 1993. 

Three years later she graduated with a BA in Art & Design, before embarking on her Masters degree. 

While still at University, her originality and talent helped her win a prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum Prize in 1996, with her work being shown as a part of the Contemporary Ceramics exhibition.

A year later she returned to the Wirral to support her mother who was recovering from spinal surgery, completing her MA part time from the family home. After her mother made a full recovery, Emma threw herself back into her work, becoming artist in residence and an academic at her old college, Wirral Met.

Since then she has exhibited all over the UK and around the world. Locally, she had a solo exhibition at the Bluecoat Display Centre, and her work featured in the Walker Art Gallery’s exhibition, The Rise of Women Artists. Nationally, her work has been displayed in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and Saatchi Collect with international exhibitions in Belgium, Texas, New York and Singapore, where she won the National Critics Choice award in the Best of British exhibition.

Her sculptures have even made it into Hollywood, featuring in Marvel’s box-office smashes, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron as part of the personal possessions of The Collector, a sinister white haired character played by Benicio Del Toro.

Emma cites Gaccometti, Naum Gabo, Egon Schiele and Frink as the artists who have most influenced her work. Travelling, and interactions with ancient cultures and contemporary art – including artefacts collected by her great-grandfather, who was a missionary in Africa – to more current activities, such as studying animal autopsies, have also shaped her unique approach to sculpture.

Passionate about arts education, she has worked with schools across the North West through the Crafts Council’s Firing Up programme and has no doubt become an inspiration to future generations of artists in her own right.

While a member of London’s elite Chelsea Arts Club, Emma remains firmly connected with her home city of Liverpool.

She designs and produces shields for Liverpool Football Club, one of which was presented to the legendary Brazilian footballer, Pele. She also created the You’ll Never Walk Alone award which was presented to LJMU Honorary Fellow Steven Gerrard when he left the club in 2015. 

Another LJMU Honorary Fellow will be immortalised by Emma and co-artist Andy Edwards, who have been commissioned to create a statue of a young Cilla Black for outside the original entrance to the Cavern in Mathew Street. 

Emma has also worked closely with the Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, being commissioned in 2014 to make a 21st century Liver Bird for an exhibition during the city’s first International Festival of Business. She also donates her sculptures of the city’s iconic emblem to help raise funds for the Mayor’s Hope Fund.

In recognition of the life-saving support her mother received while undergoing treatment for cancer, Emma is now an Ambassador for the Clatterbridge Cancer Appeal, helping raise funds to enable this pioneering centre expand its services into the heart of Liverpool.

As one of the most sought after and highly collectable artists working in Britain today, Emma is an exceptional ambassador for the creative arts in Liverpool and the UK. 

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I present Emma Rodgers, this most distinguished citizen of Liverpool, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.