<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Sussex Life today click here

Sculptor Neil Lawson Baker wants to put Chichester on the map

PUBLISHED: 12:22 17 April 2014 | UPDATED: 10:05 22 April 2014

Neil with the maquette for 'Nurture'

Neil with the maquette for 'Nurture'


Sculptor Neil Lawson Baker moved to West Ashling near Chichester 25 years ago. He wants Chichester to become known internationally as a city of the arts, and jointly led the city into the 2013 City of Culture bid

Sterling Sterling

When I ask Neil Lawson Baker whether he always wanted to be a sculptor, his answer comes as something of a surprise. “No,” he says, “other than for the fact that I made pots at school and spent a lot of time with my dad learning how to develop and print photographs in his darkroom.” So was his father his artistic inspiration? “He was a good amateur photographer,” he responds, “but actually, I steered myself into medicine.”

Neil qualified as a Dental Surgeon, and then studied for a degree in Medicine and Surgery. He worked in medicine for 40 years, starting with registrarships in ENT, Plastic Surgery and Radiotherapy, before becoming senior partner in a dental surgery in Belgravia, London. But fate intervened…

“After falling ill from an injury at work I had to spend four months at home, and I started sculpting,” he says. “I had a needle stick injury through my glove while operating, and that particular patient was later discovered to have been carrying Hepatitis B. Three months later I was very seriously ill and had to cease practice. We had over 8,000 patients to look after in London and I eventually had four months off work to fully recover. With the threat of not being able to practise surgery if I remained as a carrier hanging over me, I started sculpting in my bedroom while in solitary confinement.”

These days, Neil is a self-taught sculptor, who also works in paint and photography. He has created many high profile pieces, which are on display all over the world, the largest of which is The Keris, created for the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. By contrast, the smallest is about 5” high, a work called Sterling (right), which depicts Sterling and the ECU (European Community Unit which pre-empted the EURO) in direct opposition. “Lady Thatcher used my maquette as a paperweight on her parliamentary desk!” He remembers fondly. “Another fun commission was dedicated by HM The Queen to the opening of the English end of the Channel Tunnel in 1994.”

Nurture Nurture

With great works like these to his name, it is difficult to imagine what might be next for Neil, but unsurprisingly, he has a plan up his sleeve. “I have been asked to submit 15 photographic works for The Royal Photographic Society and I am casting some fairly major bronzes too.” And if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Neil is also the CEO of The National Open Art Competition. Now in its 18th year, National Open Art attracts over 3,500 entries annually. This year’s exhibition showcasing the winners will open at London’s Somerset House, before touring to The Minerva in Chichester, and then to Pallant House Gallery.

“We reach 30,000 visitors in person,” says Neil of the competition. “We give £60,000 in prizes and National Open Art is highly regarded as the best open art competition in the UK – it is a joy to help emerging and established artists by getting their work shown, and often sold, at major venues. It’s great to be a little bit useful, nurturing creativity and furthering careers.”

The National Open has a small, dedicated team here in Chichester, supporting artists across the UK. “With £60,000 of prize money we are proud that this Sussex enterprise is now spoken of as the best open art competition in the UK,” he says of the venture (www.thenationalopenartcompetition.com).
Neil still continues to sculpt, with most of his work now coming through commissions. His work will be part of the Chichester Art Trail in May, and the National Open Art Exhibition opens at Somerset House on 18 September. It will then show at Minerva Theatre and Pallant House Gallery in November and December.

Neil Lawson Baker, West Ashling, Chichester; 01243 576 082; 07802 896073;

More from Out & About

Wed, 09:54

10 of the most beautiful, inspiring and simply stunning photos of Sussex shared on Instagram over the past week...

Read more
Tue, 11:50

Hazel Sillver prepares for an expedition and keeps her eyes peeled for Heffalumps on this circular stroll through Pooh Bear country

Read more
Tue, 11:36

Eight hundred years after the Forest Charter safeguarded Britain’s woodland for the use of its people, the Woodland Trust has launched a new initiative to protect ancient woods from more modern threats, as Steven East finds out

Read more
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sussex’s highest town has a chequered past but a busy community life as Duncan Hall discovers

Read more
Monday, November 13, 2017

It has grown from its Lewes home to become a feature of more than 75 high streets across the country. Duncan Hall eats in the original Bill’s and meets its founder

Read more
Thursday, November 9, 2017

The producers behind the lavish new family pantomime, Cinderella, which opens on the 22 December at The Hilton Brighton Metropole, have announced their cast for the show

Read more
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

In the latest instalment of his Secret Sussex investigations, Clive Agran heads for the West Sussex county town of Chichester – best known for its cathedral and Roman heritage. But what part did the town have to play in the D-Day landings?

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

With views, cosy pubs, endless walks and lively towns and cities, Sussex is the only place to be during the holiday season

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

With late-night shopping, fairs, Christmas markets and plenty of food and drink, we’ve rounded up some of the best festive offerings in Sussex

Read more
Thursday, November 2, 2017

The skies of Sussex are sure to be lit up this November with some amazing fireworks and bonfire events taking place across the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Sussex this month

Read more
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Twenty years ago, award-winning nature photographer Stephen Dalton bought a nine-acre wood in East Sussex which he lovingly transformed into a magical haven for wildlife and woodland flowers. As a stunning new book showcasing his woodland paradise is published, he tells Angela Wintle about the pioneering high-speed photographic techniques he uses to capture birds and insects in free flight

Read more
Monday, October 30, 2017

New film Goodbye Christopher Robin explores the influence Ashdown Forest had on a traumatised writer and his bear-loving little boy. Duncan Hall finds out more

Read more
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Over the past three years there has been a revolution in Worthing’s restaurant culture. Duncan Hall checks out the best

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Sussex Life Application Link

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Sussex's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search