American-born sculptor Doug Neil immigrated to Christchurch with his wife and son in 1990. He has worked in stone ever since. His sculptures, both domestic and megalithic in scale, reflect what he calls "an old fashioned truth to materials approach", refashioning the landscape into tactile sculptures.
"I like the endless shaping, cutting, grinding and breaking against the stone. Like Sisyphus' eternal push of the boulder uphill". However, unlike Sisyphus, there is no deceit in Neil's work. While the artist harbours ideas about the way a certain block of stone might be transformed into an organic sculpture, the material doesn't always allow him to realise this. The resulting works are a beautiful reconciliation between Neil's vision and labour, and nature itself. In both rural and urban settings, his great rocks lend their surroundings a very permanent quality – a sense of timelessness which is both comforting and awe-inspiring. His smaller scale works mimic the natural properties of the environment. For example, the motion of tussock grasses, braiding of a river and ripples in water are echoed in the lines of the stone – almost as though they have been etched by nature rather than by the artist.
In addition to Tai Tapu Sculpture Garden, Doug's local works can be seen at Sir Miles Warren's Ohinetahi, and at the entrances to the Christchurch City Mission and Westburn Primary School. His work is also held in private collections around the world.
In 2003, Neil was honoured to win the Kurashiki, Japan Culture Foundation sculpture competition with his monumental work Pillars of Wisdom. Neil writes, "Mostly, I feel honoured to be working every day out in the paddock between the green and gold hedgerows, under the soaring hawks and fields of pheasants, plovers, quail and pukekos. They make great friends in my studio."