Melbourne sculptor Neil Taylor has been creating intricate forms using one of the most humble materials – wire – for some thirty years. Originally a schoolteacher, he encouraged his students to create structures made from wire and papier mache, for want of more expensive or traditional art materials.
After a twenty-year period teaching animation and graphics at Rusden College (now Deakin University) he has focused solely on his sculpture and has shown biennially at Niagara Galleries since 1990. His most recent solo show in April comprised some twenty-six galvanised wire structures, some modest in scale displayed on plinths (ranging from about 15 to 40 centimetres), others larger and more organic gracing the gallery walls. In addition was a smaller group of intricate metal sculptures made from found objects locked together.
Like the artist himself, the works speak with a gentle eloquence, prompting thoughts about the relationship between form and space, mass and volume, geometry and nature, line and structure. Not far below the geometry of their structure, however, they reveal (often in their titles) the artist's broader humanistic concerns such as the future of the natural environment and what it means to be human. Green's Promise, 2004 for example refers to the political agenda of the Australian Greens. One of the larger works in the exhibition, this is a shell-like form containing a series of self-contained rings suggesting the sanctity and protective powers of nature. In this instance the illusion of volume is created with ordinary garden mesh and a pair of pliers, yet like all of Taylor's sculptures the humble nature of the materials is transcended by the beauty and intricacy of the resulting form. As we all know, politics is a grubby business and politicians are full of promises and platitudes, yet its ideals can stem from the purest of human aspirations.
Some of Taylor's smaller works were produced using soldering, a technique which gives a deliberately handcrafted appearance to some of the cooler geometric designs. Moon inclusion (2004) suspends or imprisons a papier mache sphere within a wire matrix, suggestive of a scientific mapping (a CAD rendering?) of the space within space. This illusion of volume is no organic exoskeleton like Green's Promise, but rather the visualisation of space itself.
The suggestion of scientific modelling recurs in works such as Interior disturbance (2001), which brings to mind molecular structures as they are visualised in chemistry textbooks. Yet there is something defiantly fallible and vulnerable about these delicate structures, painstakingly crafted using wire and soldering. This work has a powerful emotional effect, reminiscent as it is of the delicate synapses in the brain as revealed in medical imaging. A similar work, Heart (2005), subtly introduces the colour red to differentiate that most central of bodily organs, the human heart. In both works what at first appears cool, objective and unambiguous is on closer inspection revealed to contain all the frailties of the human condition.
The inherent geometry of nature seems to be at the heart of Taylor's practice. While his studio is now in Footscray in the western suburbs of Melbourne, he spent many years living in rural Gippsland where he enjoyed an intimate relationship with the bush. In discussing his work his language is full of rural and seasonal references, many of which are borne out by the sculptures themselves. One is reminded of the slightly dizzying experience of driving through geometric fields of crops or plantation forests, as well as the structural intricacy of individual objects such as shells, tree trunks, flowers and so on. In Taylor's hands the banality of wire is transformed into a medium of great expressive force.