When looking at a work of Neil Adcock’s, be it a pounamu figure or an amber and gold ring, it is clear that they have been crafted by an artist intimately engaged with his materials. For Adcock, form does not follow function, but follows the features of the stone, amber, or metal he selects for each piece. The reflection and translucence, malleability and density of each physical element is accentuated and balanced by its proximity to another.
Using the most basic of forms, Adcock’s sculptures tap into a history of human representation that goes back millennia. The works rely on an innately human desire to recognise the familiar in the abstract: heads and bodies emerge from irregular slices of stone to coalesce into ur-humans. The dense interior structure of the pounamu is on full display in these works, revealing mineral inclusions and colour-shifts that glow as light filters through the stone.
In Aotearoa, the significance of pounamu runs deeply through the cultural histories of te ao Māori; connected to the natural and spiritual worlds, all pounamu has its own whakapapa and mauri. Kāi Tahu narratives tell of the kidnapping of Waitaiki by the taniwha Poutini, and the attempts of her husband Tamaahua to rescue her. In order to keep Waitaiki forever, the taniwha transformed her into pounamu, and laid her in the riverbeds of the Arahura River (1). Adcock treats this precious material with care and respect, and his totemic sculptures capture its gravity and consequence.