Neil Dawson (born 1948) is a prominent New Zealand sculptor. His best known works are large-scale civic pieces crafted from aluminum and stainless steel, often made using a lattice of natural forms which between them form a geometric whole.
Dawson’s objects and his installations are persistently and deliberately elusive on the point of their whereness. Indeed, the compelling force of the artist’s work is that, despite its materiality, it somehow escapes the space which it occupies.
The sense that Dawson’s art, though in the world, is yet not quite of it-that it is just out of reach beyond an untraversable border-is often conveyed in the titles under which the artist will present his exhibitions. In 1981, for example (an awesomely productive year), there was Echo (Christchurch Arts Centre); Here and There (Denis Cohn Gallery, and a reprise of Dawson’s exhibition with Pauline Daly at the New Zealand Embassy, Washington, DC3);Escapes (Peter McLeavy Gallery); Vanishing Points (Auckland City Art Gallery); Reflections (National Art Gallery);Boundaries (Brooke-Gifford Gallery). The concepts nicely render the characteristic experience of simultaneous presence and absence in the works. An echo lacks specific place, neither here nor there; while confined it escapes confinement; as a reflection it reflects something, but in itself what is it? And is a boundary a place (is a vanishing point), or is it merely that which notionally distinguishes a hereness from a thereness, a presence from an absence?
In short, Dawson’s sculpture is individual, unique and easy to recognise. In fact his sculptures flout convention in their lightness of feel, their transparency and their escape from the conventions of earthbound pedestal-based display.