Neil Dawson 'Flights Of Fancy' by Jonathan Smart

Neil Dawson has long been fascinated by feathers. There’s a terrific photograph of him in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1988, feather over shoulder walking to the Gallery of New South Wales, where he placed four sculptures wind-vane like along the roof above the main entrance.

Now, in his early-70’s and one of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s pre-eminent sculptors, he is at it again. The materials are little different: the polycarbonate is lighter and more transparent; the metals easier to computer cut; and the paint systems more advanced.


But there is still that leap of faith - the suggestion of objecthood, of lightness, of form and colour imagined yet real, both at the wall and suspended in space. The details of quill and vein are observed, and the feathers usually from the wing or more downy - closer in to the body. They are from local and Australian birds (you can guess which are the more colourful) - seagull, hawk, kea, duck and parrot. There are delicate details tapered and teased, and colours dense and variously translucent.


In the end though, it is our spirit that soars. Looking at a Neil Dawson sculpture often conjures delightful flights of fancy.


Jonathan Smart

Co-Director of The Central

April 20, 2020