In a major new series of works, Neil Dawson has taken a Blue Willow plate design (made in New Zealand but based on a British design with a Chinese folk tale woven through it) through a process of smashing, reassembling, scale alteration, distortion, visual and spatial illusion.
Plate 10 actively employs the rim pattern of the plate as its outer edge and links this to another internal pattern (that directly infers Polynesian imagery). Across this a series of abstract shapes spin, float and intervene. Plate 9 is a jig-saw puzzle of the entire plate. Plate 1 uses repetition, scale variation and overlaid shards to turn the viewer’s eye ceaselessly around. Plate 2 has significant elements in common with Plate 1 but the rectangles of red introduce modernist dialogues and elements of abstraction amongst fragments of a traditional narrative.
Throughout his acclaimed career Neil Dawson has consistently used architectural devices. The combination of an I-beam with circular elements of the plate pattern frame Dawson’s signature use of illusion, humour and contradiction. Plate 5 uses the architecture of the beam to contain the pattern which is in fact placed behind it. Plate 6 introduces an intersecting red beam and space is thrust forward. In Plate 7 two shards of the plate are united by a descending I-beam and across this one shard rises upward.
All of these plates have partial stories – there is a fisherman, a boat, a bridge, birds flying, buildings, etc – and the varied language of pattern – sometimes abstracted in character, other times culturally specific – and the same colour blue. This colour (openly acknowledges the delft blue so prominent in the history of studio ceramics) changes with light strike and seems to move position and in any plate this can vary from appearing wet to dry and matte. Added into the beauty of all of this is the emphatic role played by shadow, shape alteration and the dynamics of movement.
Plate 8 is a major work with the centre emphasis of a fractured star. Around this spin organic triangles that contain buildings and trees, which alter scale and hence perception. Yet undeniable too is the feeling of this being a kimono. Plate 3 is lyrical, feminine in character and a potent example of how less (understatement) is more.