Due to his untimely death in 1975, at the age of only 35, Carl Sydow’s sculptural output was relatively limited. Very few extant pieces remain, as many works were recycled or discarded after being shown. However, his drawings provide a fascinating snapshot of Sydow’s sculptural methodology, demonstrating his meticulous attention to detail and the way he structured his thinking around form, symmetry and line. They are also substantial works in their own right; Sydow’s confident technical drawing and masterful sense of design, composition and colour lend these works a satisfying solidity, their crystalline matrices hinting at intriguing, latent sculptural potentialities. 


Sydow’s drawings pass beyond the realm of planning or preliminary sketching, instead envisioning the sculptural object as a diffuse cloud of possibilities, a fractal mass replicating itself through a space that seems to have itself splintered or been destabilised. Sydow’s black linework and bright, clean colour show the influence of the British scene that the artist immersed himself in during the 1960s, a legacy that can be traced back to the elegant formalism of Anthony Caro—and ultimately, to De Stijl and Malevitch’s Constructivism. 


Enigmatic, evocative and thought-provoking, Sydow’s abstract works on paper are a precious reminder of a time when making contact with international trends and ideas was by no means a simple matter for New Zealand artists. Sydow was a practitioner who thought deeply about his chosen field, absorbed the best of what the international art scene had to offer, and brought these ideas back to New Zealand, and for that he should be remembered as a true innovator.