Artist Neil Dawson has been working for the last 40 years at the forefront of New Zealand's public sculpture. His pieces, made from laser cut steel, have ever changing perspectives. They convert and admit the space and light in and around them, leading to changes of shadow, perspective and volume which visually trick the eye while still retaining beauty and awe. Although made of steel his sculptures seem to defy gravity and the heaviness of the medium. The delicate detailing and patterning of his works are drawn from various sources, such as porcelain patterns, building materials, and flora and fauna.
Dawson is synonymous with Christchurch, born there in 1948 he gained a Diploma of Fine Arts (Honours) from Canterbury University in 1970. Three years later he completed a Graduate Diploma in Sculpture from Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts. He has produced many public sculptures throughout New Zealand, Australia, Asia and the UK. Dawson represented New Zealand at the Sydney Biennale in 1988, and at Magiciens de la Terre, Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris in 1989. Neil has worked as a full-time sculptor since the late 1980's and in 2003 was awarded an Arts Laureate by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, the following year he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Some of his notable international public sculptures include the Main Entry Artworks at the Stadium of Australia for the Olympic Games in 2000 and Fanfare, which he installed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for New Year 2004/05 and now welcomes you into Christchurch city on the northern motorway. His sculpture Raindrops resides in Manchester, United Kingdom, and his Globe in Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Within New Zealand his major public works include the Chalice in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, which has become a symbol of earthquake resilience, and Ferns in Civic Square, Wellington. Many will recall Echo which hung in the north quad of the Arts Centre, just outside The Central. It was one of the first pieces of Public art that many of us can remember, and we look forward to having it back in its rightful place. Dawson’s Spires was installed above Latimer Square in Christchurch in 2013. The work references the spire of the Christchurch Cathedral which was badly damaged in the earthquake of February 2011. The work signifies a significant period in Christchurch’s history as well as offering us a moment for reflection.
In 2019 Neil revisited his idea for the 1988 Sydney Biennale and began working on suspended and wall mounted feathers that capture your eye.
Click here to watch an interview with Neil Dawson discussing his feathers.
Click here to read some words that Jonathan Smart has written about these mesmorising works.