“I bark. That man there, see him? [points to Sal] He bites.” 

In Sidney Lumet’s magnificent “Dog Day Afternoon” 1975, male desperation, sexual anxiety, machismo, and poor planning combine to disassemble a bank robbery plan that was always destined to go off the rails. Sonny and Sal played by Hollywood greats Al Pacino and Johnny Cazale respectively, are expressions of misplaced aggression and ineptitude. 

Men behaving badly, awkwardly, and violently is at the heart of Nina Waring’s new group of ceramic sculptures. Balding, flexing and showboating they crouch in both “attack-mode” and celebration. Covered in tattoos, top-to-toe, they combine Neanderthal brutality with a decorative armour of “skin art”. This kind of marking has become oddly conformist and any lingering menace a skull positioned on a swollen deltoid might’ve had, is at risk of conveying little more than fashion and the softest tribalism. 

Beside these sad, yet unexpectedly endearing male figures are a group of Waring’s more familiar and celebrated tattooed dogs. Snoozing, benign, cuddly even, it is the dogs that convey humanity and warmth whilst it is the male figures that posture and growl with an almost comedic level of bravado. 

Waring’s dogs then have assumed the role of peacemakers – content and at ease – no bark, no bite, just sleepy charm. Yes, they too have the tattoos that suggest they may be gangland pooches, but these pups would certainly be man’s best friend were he to behave better… 

The manner in which Waring conflates these bully-ish figures with beautifully deft, delftware painting is fundamental to their ongoing contradictions. Domestic scenes and windmills are gone, replaced by handguns, tribal iconography and hints of Mexican Cartel symbolism. These porcelain sculptures are made and painted with such care and affection, that they manage to be simultaneously connected to the long lineage of decorative ceramics that reaches back through the imperialist histories of China, The Netherlands and England whilst being determinedly contemporary. 

Andrew Jensen, 2023