02 - 20 December, 2008

Margaret Dawson

Margaret Dawson’s work this year has had a science-fiction feel, and the figure is no longer foregrounded. Yet there are connections to be made with her previous work, especially the use of everyday non-precious materials to create striking and playful effects. In She had an uncanny feeling she was repeating herself (High Street Project, 30 July – 11 Aug 08), the artist was able to construct something quite otherworldly with cans salvaged from suburban recycling bins.

In her current exhibition Tinsel at Jonathan Smart Gallery, Dawson continues to explore the possibilities of this theme, presenting large format photographs of various can-based installation works, and canned footage on DVD.

Rivet Mint

FluxIn the work entitled Flux, the action is situated in a 1940s-ish-looking space. Cascading tubular forms descend from a lofty-studded interior. Tubes have been formed by the running of a wire through varying numbers of cans. This connecting substance has been installed so that the cans conspire to form groping steel tentacles. This installation was made in collaboration with sculptor the late John Dean, and according to Dawson, was intended to reference "the body as interior". Amalgam, Heavy Metal and Tinct offer further viewpoints of these lustrous, robotic-like appendages, drama and atmosphere effectively created by simple variations of lighting.

AmalgamWhile much of the Tinsel imagery has domestic, suburban associations, neither would it be out of place as scenery in an early Doctor Who or Flash Gordon television series. It is easy to mentally introduce Daleks into the various scenes. That Dawson's work manages to suggest both domestic and science fiction associations is not a contradiction when we consider the down home production values of 1950s T.V…….

Dawson's practice has always been political. Politics have informed the artist's choice to work collaboratively with others, and to defy good taste and the preciousness of art by using materials at hand. Her first solo work, The Red Connection, demonstrated a certain socialist-democratic sensibility. This took place on a suburban Christchurch bus in 1978, and formed part of her final presentation towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the TinselUniversity of Canterbury. Dawson made photographs of people travelling on Christchurch buses, and of those who drove and maintained the vehicles, then displayed the images in one such bus as it negotiated its suburban route. The political context adheres in the manner in which Dawson removed art from the gallery and into an everyday situation. Here 30 years later, the everyday - in the shape of recycled vegetable cans - has reasserted itself by conquest and the repetition of form, back into the surrounds of the gallery.

With thanks to Lesley Knight for the use of extracts from her essay Tinsel and otherworldly work by Margaret Dawson, 2008


Selected works






Heavy Metal


 Details of Works
Flux                             630 x 470mm                    
Heavy Metal        630 x 470mm         
Mint 470 x 300mm
Tinsel 470 x 630mm
Tinct 470 x 630mm
Amalgam 470 x 630mm
Rivet 470 x 630mm
Hitched DVD
All works are LED C-type prints in editions of 3, from 2008.
Margaret Dawson would like to acknowledge: the late John Dean,
Shaun Waugh, Anna Harvey, Nick Johnston, HSP & Lesley Knight,
Richard Pascoe, Anu Webster, and Jonathan Smart.