Neil Dixon is a young sculptor who creates an imaginary architecture to propose an alternative reality. As he explains: ‘The buildings are based on my interpretation and reflection of the architectural styles of the real world … traditional, modernist and contemporary styles … Gaudi, and Constant’s “architecture of desire” and DIY buildings such as slums and tree houses … I imagine a new architecture and society built on the ruins of an old one.’
He employs the basic materials of architecture - timber and clay – to build small-scale spatial constructions, composed of surfaces, holes, walls and floors that form ad hoc sequences of connecting chambers. His sculptures might be seen as expressions of a utopian city such as ‘New Babylon’, the vision of CoBrA and Situationist International associated artist and architect Constant Nieuwenhuys, a city whose inhabitants would no longer have to work (that being taken care of by machines), so that their lives could be devoted to creative play.
The sculptures can perhaps also be seen as models of sprawling shanty towns, or of settlements precariously clinging to mountainsides, representing an architecture that is provisional and organic, collaborative and vernacular, and where all buildings arise from sheer necessity. Particular reference points for Dixon are incongruous collisions of the historical and the modern, which often occur in urban environments. An example he offers is the 1960s Broadmarsh Shopping Centre in Nottingham whose walls give way to the city’s network of ancient man-made subterranean caves, used from the Dark Ages to the 1940s as dwellings, factories and store rooms, and now a tourist attraction.
In her book ‘On Longing’, the American cultural critic Susan Stewart insightfully observes that a representation of the world in miniature ‘has the capacity to make its context remarkable’ and affords ‘a diminutive, and thereby manipulable, version of experience.’ In the same way Dixon’s miniature buildings and settlements invite imaginative exploration and the possibility of creating new narratives of space and place.
Neil Dixon studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University graduating in 2009. His work has since featured in a number of exhibitions including the Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary Award exhibition, London (2010); Nottingham Castle Open (2011); Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum, Miaoli and Huanshan Creative Park, Taipei, Taiwan (2012); and the Commissioned Programme of the Wirksworth Festival, Derbyshire (2012). In addition to gaining an RBS Bursary, he won the Deirdre Hubbard Award for Sculpture and a Quad Future Focus Bursary, all in 2010.
Words © Tessa Peters, courtesy of Marsden Woo Gallery