Neil Dawson’s new exhibition of sculpture is called on hollowed ground. In post-quake Christchurch that could refer to liquefaction, which in Dawson’s piece Interior (Blue) is suggested by mesh shaped seemingly by forces welling up from beneath.
Or is Dawson punning on the notion of hallowed ground, by presenting (in the smaller back gallery) eight meticulous little wallworks from the same family as Spires – a public work, currently in Latimer Square, that sets the form of Christchurch’s Cathedral spire (and its reflection) against trees and sky?
In the bigger front space however, hollowed ground becomes the illusion of sculptural space itself. Two works use mirror glass, a material that Dawson has never used before. The mirror enables a visual hollowing out of the wall behind the sculpture. In Uccello’s Chalice, mirror either side of a corner visually eliminates that corner and creates the illusion of a chalice in the round, floating free in the gallery space (which is also the viewer’s space.) So this beautifully welded goblet in matt black steel follows us around the room. It is a corner work in actual fact, in that Dawson has only fabricated one quarter of the chalice. Reflection, and the hollowing of ground, does the rest.
The mirror behind Spiked excavates similar ground. The piece is large and hangs from the wall, but any feeling for that wall is dissolved by the mirror. Indeed, it looks like the large black spike extends right back through the wall. It quietly takes it out. Visually, the effect is less theatrical than that around Uccello’s Chalice. Spiked is more mysterious,almost military or even sci-fi in quality. It has an air of haunting menace about it – due in part to its impeccably flocked black surface, and in spite of its svelte, graceful form.
Black Halos has a similar feel. Continuing the halo motif from some of the smaller Inspirations in the gallery space behind, the interlocked composition of Black Halos utilizes a fifth century halo pattern admired by Dawson when in Seville, Spain last year. The gallery’s white wall becomes a ground as subtle as the implied frame in this work. There is also here a lightness and absence of being appropriate to the iconography of the halo – which is as much buzz saw edge as it is crown of thorns.
So hollowed and hallowed ground in this exhibition become one. In this sense, Black Cloud might read as the ultimate template for the show. I-beams in cut steel (which along with feathers are probably Dawson’s signature motifs) swirl and swell into clouds of black. This construction is a flight of fantasy – fashioned as drawing, pulled into formation, and then floated over hollowed ground.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.