Neal’s Made to View solo exhibition at the Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery, London (2009) was dedicated to his Cut and Groove series. The series combines Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technologies with traditional carpentry techniques, each piece presenting an original furniture form inspired by an iconic eighteenth-century furniture archetype. The show included the Anne Table, the Anne Chair, a chest of drawers titled George III and a series of classical vessel forms informed by blown glass bottles and jars used in early twentieth-century medicine, alongside several examples from his Block Series.
An exhibition highlight was the presence of Neal himself, transported from his workshop to the gallery to assemble a chest of drawers under the public gaze. As the title of the exhibition suggests, Neal wanted to introduce a performance aspect to the show, enabling him to engage personally with his audience and giving him the possibility of asking visitors to assist him. A time-lapse animation of his ‘performance’ replaced him for the remainder of the exhibition’s duration. In fact, the performance encapsulated the interesting and sometimes contradictory space in which Neal found himself. On the one hand, he resists the confines and isolation of craft in seeking to make this a less conventional exhibition of handmade furniture. On the other, he feels bound to champion craft, consequently the performance situates hand-making at the centre of his activity. As a contemporary designer and maker in tune with the history of his craft, Neal also seeks to find a new, appropriate and contemporary expression for it.
Widely covered in the design and craft media, works from this exhibition were shown in other significant venues including the Saatchi Gallery, the V&A, No. 10 Downing Street and the Craft Council’s 18-month touring show, Lab Craft: Digital Adventures in Contemporary Craft.