In Hamburg in the 1990’s


I’ve just put more of my past work up in the Gallery, partly because I’ve needed to re-think, to revisit the ‘bone’ collection .. but also because the images are in some ways rather seasonal! Here are some excerpts. Whether you celebrate Christmas and New Year, or whether you’re just looking forward to a break and a new start ..

.. I wish you all a heart-warming one!


David Neat 'sweetbox' 1996 cast and painted plaster

Sweetbox 1996


Detail of 'Pralinenkasten' from the series, 1995

Detail from the Pralinenkasten series, 1995


The theme of confectionary seems to have stuck with me in various guises throughout the years ( see also Faim de siècle ). My interest in the sweetbox form of presentation may just have been following up a childhood fascination with the look of sweets or the fact that I was used to arranging small beach-combed objects in old chocolate boxes. For the original Pralinenkasten concept I made wooden carry- cases loaded with all manner of form and colour variations (cast in plaster and wax) and people could ‘pic-n-mix’ from the stock to put together their own ensemble.


David Neat 'Natural Selection' 1995

Natural Selection 1995


At the time I had been working on cast plaster and wax forms which suggested both sweets and natural forms, and Natural Selection 1995 was a development of this idea intended to emphasize the physical and tactile.


David Neat 'Business' from the 'Qualities' edition, 2003 detail

Business Box from the Qualities edition, 2003


A few years later I returned to both the sweetbox form and the idea of the bespoke
with the Qualities range (literally ‘quality’ chocolates in that they were inscribed with the
names of qualities desirable for given occasions or purposes). The range included
limited editions for Valentine’s Day, celebration of marriage, graduation and business.
One of the most satisfying parts of the work was formulating a number of ‘chocolate’ paints for the resin-cast forms .. not only the colour of dark, milk or ‘white’ chocolate has to be right but more importantly, the surface quality. Because I’m proficient in eating chocolate I had a fool-proof test .. I knew I’d got it right when I really started to ‘taste’ it in my mind!


'Fruitrack' detail 2

Fruitrack 1993


Fruitrack was one of the first serious pieces of sculpture I ever attempted, after a number of years painting and drawing. What I sought from sculpture was the chance to progress more systematically, to develop and make systems or kits of components which could comfortably offset the occasional blunder! Of course it was also about creating things which would have more ‘real presence’, at least as I saw it. What I sacrificed though was the chance of quick success .. to this day my sculptural work takes a mind-numbing amount of time! Apart from these general motivations, I really didn’t know what I wanted to ‘sculpt’ .. or rather, I couldn’t choose from the infinite choices of three-dimensional form. Luckily I made the right decision, to start with the simplest things that were inside me .. versions of favourite shapes (some of them more like gestures) which had always been trying to materialise in my two-dimensional work.


David Neat 'Sleep' 1995

Sleep 1995


Sleep 1995 was one of my ‘interactive sculptures’ and it represented the ‘sand pit’ idea .. the forms were half-buried in a pile of dyed cork granules on the floor and gallery visitors were encouraged to unearth them. The tactile experience was an important part, and the forms were designed to sit comfortably in the hand. I regret being so haphazard in terms of documenting my work at the time .. I only have this detail photo, not a complete view. As for the inspiration for the work .. I was thinking of the rich, dark red chrysalis forms I used to unearth in the garden when I was a child. I thought these were butterflies but I now know they were moths.


David Neat 'faim de siecle' collection

Part of the Faim de siècle series, 1999


Amongst the artists ‘trademarked’ above are Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Richard Long, Robert Indiana, Yves Klein and Richard Serra.

The Faim de siècle series was planned around the millennium and featured 100 notable artists of the 20th century in the form of fake confectionery. The system was conceived as a ‘Pic-n-mix’ selection from which the ‘customer’ could choose their favourites and receive them packaged in specially crafted presentation boxes. The regular format was nine to a square box, but there were other options ranging from a small box of three to a ‘Connoisseur’ box of twenty-five.

I had to make my own choice of which ‘100’ to include in the list .. in some respects easy, and in others very difficult. My aim with the whole enterprise was to comment on a number of things .. the commerce of art; its public consumption; the way even the artists themselves fall prey to their ‘trademarks’! The easy part was choosing the 50 or so artists who, whether by critical or public opinion, just have to have their place in the lifeboat. So there’s Picasso, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Pollock, Beuys, Warhol .. for example. But of course I couldn’t help being influenced by a number of artists who may have been teetering on the edge of the ‘100’ but whose work was ripe for caricature in this form!


David Neat 'Dreambags' 2000

Dreambags 2000


Dreambags was an idea which never really got past the prototype stage, but these occupy a special place in my ‘collection’ partly because I very rarely use blue except when dealing with sky. It’s also one of the ideas I really must take up again! I’m sure others have this too .. there are ideas that just refuse to go away, that patiently stick with us however forgotten, ignored or mistreated they might be. I can think of a few that I’ve had ever since childhood .. one is a response to the phrase ‘living daylights’ for which I imagined brightly coloured, crystalline forms emerging in a summer sky; another was making my own ‘Mr Potato Head’ kit but with insectile features and attachments; and another was this one .. bags for containing dreams, which could be fitted with spirit dispensers to dose them out when needed.


4 thoughts on “In Hamburg in the 1990’s

  1. Regarding your musings on DreamBags, and bright plastic insects: Google “Cootie Bug Game.” I’m a child of the sixties who spent hours and hours playing alone with these fascinating friends of mine. Continue in your pursuit of this; I’d love to see your outcome. Regards.

    • Thanks for reviving my own buried memory of these! I think I must have come across them too, way back. The originals have much more character though than the later makeovers don’t you think?

  2. Thank you again for your posts, David. I always enjoy reading them, this time I particularly liked what you said about the Dreambags. Merry Christmas or seasons greetings whichever suits you best Best wishes for 2016 Sue

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