Geometry has always been central to Neil Dawson’s practice and works like Christchurch’s Chalice and the newly re-installed Ferns globe in Wellington delight in the repetition, reflection, and rotation of patterns. Dawson’s domestic-sized works use the same techniques, and light filters through lacy steel to extend shadow patterns onto walls and floors, where they shift as the light does. Added to this, the sculptor’s most recent works reveal a range of shimmering colour finishes that enhance their delicate lines.
Appearing from one angle to be a single hue, as the perspective changes the colours of the Mirror works shift through a myriad of shades. The ephemeral nature of the surface seems at odds with the architectural columns, perpendicular angles and precise configuration of the sculptures, but it is precisely this juxtaposition that transforms the laser-cut steel into a fluid, mutable material. The same effect of movement is created by the swirls of swallows in the Murmur Domes, where the decreasing size of the birds suggests that they are disappearing into the distance. The shadows they create do actually move, and become an extension of the work itself.
Dawson is most well know for his significant public sculptures, which grace sites around the world. His large floating spheres have been installed in Paris, Manchester, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Canberra, as well as in a number of cities throughout New Zealand. Florasphere and Atmosphere replicate the same concepts of pattern, volume, and illusion seen in these public sculptures on a domestic scale.
Dawson has distilled familiar elements – ferns, foliage, clouds - to their essential forms and uses these as the building blocks for the spheres. On one level they are reminders of the natural world we see around us, on another each sculpture is an exploration of volume, surface, form, and medium. Removed from their original contexts and reconfigured in steel, the motifs Dawson has chosen become more than signifiers and operate as pure geometric forms and material objects.