‘Box of birds’ indicates ‘good’ but also ‘somewhat out of kilter’ as, even with the best intentions, the related worlds of work (labour) and work (art) sometimes go awry in the making.1 In his sculpture, sometimes kinetic, sometimes not, Marley Dawson renders mechanics and other aspects of fabrication transparent. Art may not need to be made but, if you are making stuff, then certain necessities, certain practicalities prevail. A work-itself-as-end-in-itself kind of logic: A rotational moulding machine, wonder-maker of almost-any-object-you-can-think-of, turns a mould-like cube slowly, offering it to the viewer. A series of vagrant kinetic ‘paintings’ beg correctional instruction along the lines of, ‘Bit up on the left, please’. Elaborate belt and pulley systems clock up extreme mechanical advantage. And, if one were to ask Dawson’s large wooden object blowing smoke rings down the length of the gallery, “How you doing?”, it might reply, “Box of birds.”
1.‘Box of birds’ is a standard answer in New Zealand slang to the inquiry "How are you?" It signifies that the speaker is happy or, depending upon the ironic inflection, the opposite.
Box of Birds is Marley Dawson’s first solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and his first solo commercial exhibition. Dawson received a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons) and a Masters of Visual Arts from Sydney College of the Arts in 2003 and 2007 respectively. He has exhibited widely in artist-run-spaces, mostly in Sydney since 2001. Solo exhibitions include Trick Shop at Locksmith Project Space, Sydney (2009) and Marley Dawson (shed) at Chalkhorse, Sydney (2008). Dawson’s group shows include the Helen Lempriere Travelling Scholarship at Artspace, Sydney (2008 and 2009); Batteries Not Included (curated by Malcolm Smith) at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (2009); OBLIVION PAVILION (curated by Amanda Rowell) at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (2008); Looking Out (curated by Christopher Hanrahan) at Macquarie University Gallery (2008); New ’06 at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne as part of the collaborative group, Makeshift (Anna Crane, Marley Dawson, Pep Prodromou, Ned Sevil) (2006). Dawson also exhibited in The Antipodes Project, Point Ephémère, Paris as part of an exchange project between Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris.