Recent Work 

Nov 27 - Dec 22, 2007

Neil Dawson
Installation shot.
In Neil Dawson's recent show at Jonathan Smart Gallery, there are two outstanding bodies of work I want to talk about. Let's call them the Cones and Sweeps, for ease of description.

Pointer detail.
 Pointer detail
Pointer is the stand out amongst Cones. Suspended on nylon from a fisherman's swivel, it spins slowly in ambient air currents, pointing to nothing more than its own mysterious presence in space. As an object, Pointer certainly has a mystique about it. It is two cones joined together - one red, one silver - like the coloured magnetic poles of the compasses of my youth. But those route finders from generations past were not the sleek object this is.

Pointer's clean outline tapers diametrically to its respective points. But inside that form, another busier and more intricate geometry exists. And this is a filigree or woven lattice of darts -  that humble form known to many an idle schoolboy. Here though, with careful rotation and diminishing scale, the dart has more the precision of stealth bomber than anything I managed to glide across the classrooms of my youth. Its form has been lasercut into steel - light yet strong - full of purpose while darting in and out of space.

Silent Advance detail.
 Silent Advance detail
The Sweeps, like the Cones, comprise a series of sculptures that vary in scale and motif. Unlike Pointer, they are based at the wall, not in free space. Two in the exhibition, Sweep (Silent Advance) and Fly Past, use the dart as leitmotif. And in Sweep (Silent Advance), that form is combined with another from the imaginary of my youth - the cloud. Or should I say, the moving cumulus stacks conjured by Neil Dawson bring back happy memories of Dr Suess. These consummate storytellers impart a terrific sense of movement and momentum to their huffy puffy clouds. Hence I suspect, Dawson's title - Sweep.
It is a title that connotes a generous gesture of drawing - the sweep of the hand, or perhaps even the arm full length across space. The measure though, is in the detail. For as in Pointer, each form diminishes or grows to a crescendo according to its place. And each motif can be painted with light, density or shimmer. In Sweep (Silent Advance), darts literally seem to move within clouds and without. And this visual discretion is enhanced by silver paint that at times dissolves their form in reflected light, while at other times announcing their outline with all the natural weight of cut steel.

Fly past.
 Fly Past
In the Sweeps too, the possibilities for refraction are enhanced by their contoured format. As they sweep up the wall their form is amplified, but they are also curved structures, arched from side to side in their own right. In other words, they both catch light and cast shadow. So that as our senses of perspective are toyed with, other formal nuances and subtleties are explored.

Sweep (Blue Beams) and Sweep (Girder/Quill) are a dark and pearlescent blue. They project a certain grandeur and majesty, which is I think, a marvelous belittling of the fact that steel I-beams are so casually and convincingly let fly into the swelling sky of our dreams.

Jonathan Smart


Selected works

Sweep  (Blue Beams and Silent Advance)

 Fly Past (detail)


Pointer (detail)

Vanishing Point 3 (Scott's Cross)

Sweep  (Blue Beams and Silent Advance) - painted steel
Fly Past - painted steel
Pointer - painted steel
Vanishing Point 3 (Scott's Cross) powder coated steel