At first glance, Neil Dawson’s important new exhibition Negative Space might seem to be a radical departure and as such a complete reversal of his usual forms and approach, with no part of the linear outline now actually touching the wall. However his prominent use of architectural details returns aspects of these works to dialogues first prominent in his work from the 1970s.
Neil Dawson’s primary aim in Negative Space is to get shape off the wall and have it supported (and contradicted) by content.
Each work has been finished in a black water-silk powdercoating which defines space by functioning as if drawn in air while simultaneously seeming to advance and recede. There is a marked change of weight happening in every work as space, scale and dimension is altered, subverted and reconfigured.
Dawson is building visual contradictions and in doing so using a 5th to 6th century halo design from a church in Southern Spain. The halo is comprised of three key design elements which he employs in numerous ways. They interlock, support, float and fly. Direction alters, scale is changed, halos are presented in full and in part.
There are many allusions and illusions. An ecclesiastical narrative unites all of the work and directly informs the key visual contradiction being used between the circles of the halo shape and the cube or triangle surrounding, outlining and defining them.
The role of shadow is, as always in his work, fundamental and critical to the experience of what we see and how we see it. This ‘spirit presence’ extends further the wonderful hovering sensation present in all of the Black Halos.
The exhibition includes Spikes which refers to the preceding Cloud works and features two motifs referencing the Christchurch earthquake and church spires. Spirit is a substantial work, finished in black flocking, and is a replica of the Christchurch Cathedral spire. It is a challenging work, imbued with the particular circumstance of its destruction, as it blurs in space. Uccello’s Corner, based on the 1430 Uccello drawing in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, is a wire frame drawing occupying the corner of a wall, the illusion so successful that the viewer comprehends it in the round.