Neil Dawson studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, Christchurch, New Zealand (1970-1973) where he was taught by Tom Taylor and introduced to the Conceptual art movement. From 1978 however, he began to see conceptual work as ‘self indulgent,’ and developed a series of figurative sculptures that were more accessible to a broad audience. Dawson exhibited the House Alterations series (1978), followed by large scale, site-specific public sculptures that played with perceptions of space and volume, encouraging viewers to constantly reconsider their point of view. Some of these works have being featured as major installations such as Globe at the seminal exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris in 1989.
Dawson has also been nationally and internationally recognised for works that include: Ripples installed above the Waikato Museum of Art and History (1987), Vanity on the roof of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1988), Ferns above Wellington Civic Square (1998) and Chalice in Cathedral Square, Christchurch (2000).
Dawson has works in the collections of the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa, the Christchurch Art Gallery, Auckland City Art Gallery and many other public and private collections.