With over sixty permanent or temporary public works and commissions to his name, in recent years Neil Dawson has returned to making smaller scale works. Five Years celebrates the important bodies of work that explore scale, illusion, structure and shadow.
Crater – Archaeology is explicitly concerned with volcanic landforms and uses the device of descending spirals to debate issues of the built environment (architecture), human settlement and culture. The form of this work alters dramatically with viewing position and the role performed by the internal shadow is, while understated, very powerful.
In 2006 Dawson was invited to visit Antarctica and on his return manifested this unique experience in major works. Thoughts on Ice, a wall-hung disc, is similar structure to Crater- Archaeology, in that the wire mesh forms peaks and valleys and the spiral element is repeated in this work. Thoughts on Ice is noticeably more literal as well as ethereal and transient.
The Vanishing Point works are also informed by Neil Dawson’s time in Antarctica and further develops his interest in the cone form of the Chalice work in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square. He explores illusion, structure, space and spiralling patterns in these. However the important role of shadow is viewed outside the work and is directly influenced by light angle.
The Sweep series is dynamic in character with scale alteration establishing powerful sensations of movement. Dawson juxtaposes constructed and natural objects, using contradiction, humour and illusion. He plays with perspective and notions of rising and falling.
In his major series Old, New, Borrowed, Blue plate works, Neil Dawson uses a nostalgic motif, the blue willow pattern, which is instantly recognisable as a pattern with considerable social significance to New Zealand (although based on British design interwoven with Chinese folk tale). In this series he uses processes of smashing, reassembling, scale alteration, distortion and illusion to create visually intriguing works. “I’m interested in showing people things they know, not things they don’t know. But doing it with a new and different approach – like I’m breaking things and putting them back together in my own way” – Neil Dawson, Art News, 2009.
Dawson’s most recent body of work DECK plays with cards. While single card works are cut, bent, flipped and playfully manipulated, Rua’s Temple literally becomes a house of cards. This work talks of the meeting (council) house called Hiona at Maungapohatu, an architectural feat that used the playing card motif. From the windows of Dawson’s intricately constructed work, red and black cards are rhythmically repeated. This builds social narratives; opening up dialogues of culture identity and place.
TO VIEW ALL 17 WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION, PLEASE SEE THE EXHIBITION CATALOGUE