Critiques


A few years before the Lady Chatterly ban and the Beatles first L.P. I was in my first job teaching art in a boys' school near Southampton. In one of my classes was a dark-haired rather solemn little boy who was exceptionally gifted as a draughtsman and a painter. His name was Geoffrey Dashwood. He was so talented, in fact, that I encouraged him to go to the local art school. He soon found it was not for him and very sensibly elected to leave after a few weeks and eventually joined the Forestry Commission where I suspect his real education in art began. He began to look around him at the miraculous variety of flora and fauna in the New Forest and to draw, record, illustrate and sculpt in his spare time. The evolution of his distinctive, spare, elegant style that has made him internationally known as a sculptor has been a gradual and sometimes painful process.

Edward Phelps - Writer & critic



I have always loved the work of Geoffrey Dashwood since first I saw it many years ago. I bought a bronze then and have continued to buy others from time to time. I have bought them for three reasons. Firstly, because they are beautiful works of art: secondly because of his great knowledge of nature and thirdly because of superb craftsmanship. Geoffrey Dashwood is able to communicate his deep love of nature to others, something for which we must be enormously grateful.

Sir Kyffin Williams RA

 



Dashwood has observed his subjects with so penetrating an eye, like that of a sagacious owl, that he is able to present in his sculptures not the surface representation of the bird, but to abstract and reveal the basic elements of the creature in the same way as Inuit sculpture fines down the Arctic Owl to represent the Spirit of Place and People.

Max Wykes-Joyce - Critic

 



Geoffrey Dashwood sculpts birds. A simple enough statement, it seems. But the implications and complications are legion. To begin with, why sculpture, and why birds? If he is to be categorised as an 'Animalier', does this mean he cannot be a significant sculptor? What is the place of representational sculpture in an art world apparently obsessed with the conceptual, the installational, the "found"? There are, there can be, no generally applicable answers to these questions. Every artist, of course, is a special case. But cases hardly come more special than Dashwood. His formation as an artist must be unique and his position in the art world certainly is. In sculpture, and indeed in birds, he is entirely self-taught. What the artist needs is to have the talent to begin with, and the courage, or sheer bloody-mindedness, to follow his own vision wherever it may lead him.

John Russell Taylor - Art Critic, The Times

 



Geoffrey Dashwood is regarded by many art critics as the finest bird sculptor in the world. This year alone, he has exhibited in three major exhibitions in America. Few who saw the "Shape of the Century" exhibition in Salisbury could have failed to have been impressed

Country Illustrated

 



Restriction lies in the paucity of detail we are permitted. We see no feather contours, none but the most broad-stroked shapes. Yet Geoffrey Dashwood has distilled for us, in bronze, the quintessential 'duckness' of a duck, 'owlness' of an owl. The character of the bird is there, so is it vitality. Its next movement is just around the corner and can be almost seen, but if you try to analyse the impression you may well be hard pressed to put your finger on it.

Godfrey Gallia - Collectors Guide

 



I like the power of association which lies inside the universal language of form: the one birds use when they display and the one the artist explores when he unpicks the logic behind creation.

There is not a whiff of the mawkish sentiment and fiction that hangs over much contemporary wildlife art. For me, the real strength of Dashwoods' work lies in its' ability to communicate, not with description, but with the essential aesthetic properties of form. Distinguishing characteristics are important but he no longer stops to calibrate secondary feathers and wing spans. Lines inscribed with calligraphic delicacy may suggest the primary feathers, layers of slate unfolding, but increasingly surface markings are pared away, leaving contours and internal rhythms to speak. Dashwood finds the attitude with abstract means, not a misplaced anthropomorphism.

For all the conceptual and formal possibilities, however, the bird is a curiously rare sculptural subject. Few have attempted to trap this ethereal animal in the most gravity-bound of media and solder its feet to a block of bronze. It is with mass, however, that Dashwood penetrates the true spirits of his subjects. For me, his special quality as a sculptor lies in an ability to touch the mysterious perfection of the bird, through a profound feeling for the absolute beauty of its form.

Celia de la Hey - Art Historian, writer and critic

 



Dashwoods' kind of sculpture, representational without being naturalistic, impressive in its confidence and technical mastery, has a genuine and timely place. Its immediate approachability is in itself slightly deceptive, in that its wide appeal is achieved more often by flouting convention than by going uncritically along with it.

The great advantage of ignoring fashion is that one can therefore never be unfashionable. While we may suspect that the excesses of today's conceptual artists will for the most part lose their fame as they lose their superficial novelty, there seems no reason why Dashwood's sculpture, eschewing as it does the sensational tangles with tabloid celebrity and cleaving instead to timeless, universal values, should not last forever.

John Russell Taylor - Art critic, The Times

 



Dashwoods' working methods are the antitheses of slickness or superficial gimmickry. He will work for weeks on a piece which may be virtually destroyed and resurrected in a refined form. The intensity and authority that manifests itself within such methods are quite evident, emerging in the finished sculptures. But inspiration is an ever-moving quarry and Dashwood too has felt the need to move on. Not content with resting on the laurels of achievement nor heeding the hints of dealers or pleads of collectors he has continued to experiment and explore outside boundaries. His courage is rewarded by enriching and maturing his own vision and by the acclaim from others. The more seemingly abstracted his idea and the purer the forms become, the more his audience rises to his challenge, aware of the bold virtuoso improvisations yet reassured by the unfailing truth to the spirit of the subject.

Merlin James - Artist, writer and critic

 



Dashwood's wild birds are manifests of aggression, alarm or quivering tension as though years of empathetic observation had distilled into the metal. Delacroix notes in his journal that 'art does not consist of copying nature but in recreating it' and this is just what Dashwood does. Redundant adventitious detail has been stripped away to get at the heart of the matter and the result is not only an archetype of form but also of behaviour.

At the centre of making these beautiful images is a paradox between form and content. Hardy, listening to the bird song outside his window reflected that - 'a year ago or less than twain No finches were, or nightingales Nor thrushes But only particles of grain And earth, and air and rain."

In Dashwoods' sculptures these ephemera, these brides of passage, are given the enduring monumentality of bronze and yet lose nothing of their strangeness and vitality; rather it is fixed and enhanced for us to admire and even love.

Edward Phelps - Teacher, writer & critic

 



Dashwoods' art concerns a lust for birds. Their polish and exactitude have less to do with the 'Animalier' tradition than with the creator's obsessive 'caressing' of his subject. For this, bronze is the natural choice of medium. These sculptures point to a growing awareness of Nature with increasingly complex and diverse measures of value or worth attached. It is a mark of Dashwoods' genius that he works this transformation through his predator's intensity of observation, his artist's refined sensibilities and his craftsman's skills in fabrication. He shows us that a common duck, owl or gull can assume a monumental dignity regardless of scale.

Jonathan Kingdon - Artist, writer, zoologist

 



Dashwoods' technique is reductive, all but a few surface details are abandoned leaving a simplicity which emphatically strengthens each work. With aplomb and authority he reproduces the functional aesthetics of nature's machines in a graphic and economical style, which with a sympathetic amalgam of internal form, aerodynamism and known physiology, produces all the tension, the sensuality, all the absolute beauty of living birds. These sculptures defy the need for anatomical or ornithological justification - they are quite simply ravishing.

Ravish them then for they are uncommon emblems of man's appreciation of nature and genuine offerings from a brave school that has crossed the chasm which separates the largely tired and tawdry field of wildlife art into the real world of contemporary sculpture. It is said that what is essential is invisible to the eye and that it is only the heart that one can see rightly. Little or nothing of our birds seems invisible to sculptor Dashwood's eyes, and what his heart has produced can only rightly be seen by us to be so essentially beautiful.

Chris Packham - Natural History writer and film maker

 



Geoffrey Dashwood certainly knows his birds in the character of their every quirk and gesture, and perhaps there are those of a more literal cast of mind who would neither see or would wish to see any further or deeper into his work. Yet even to them, their responses to his birds could only be as deeply satisfying as they are, by being so formally resolved and accomplished even before any quality of description begins. Which means, to put it another way, that in their essence as works of art, they are very abstract indeed.

Dashwood is simply an artist in and of his time, formed by his own particular experience and getting on with his work. The point rather is that an innate sympathy of approach suggests itself inescapably in his work, in the simplicity of the principle forms and the natural authority with which they are resolved together, movement set against stability to create an imaginative dynamic that would be as real and alive whether the image were a hawk or no more than a block on a column.

All art is abstract, only some more some less. For the artist, the trick is only to establish the balance and proportion appropriate to himself, by the terms he sets himself in the work. With his birds Dashwood does just that.

William Packer - Art Critic Financial Times


 

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