Carl Sydow attended the University of Canterbury School of Art in 1959, along with his friends John Panting and Stephen Furlonger, both of whom went on to become significant sculptors in their own right. Sydow’s student works were figurative, cast in bronze or ciment fondu (calclium aluminate cement). After the University of Canterbury, Sydow travelled to Auckland, studying at the Elam School of Fine Arts for a further year, while also training as a teacher. On the basis of the work he completed while at Elam, Sydow was awarded an Arts Council Travelling Bursary, which he used to go to London, where Panting and Furlonger were both studying at the Royal College of Art.
Sydow used the RCA facilities during the summer of 1965, where he began to absorb the new currents emerging in contemporary British sculpture. In London, Sydow was exposed to the work of Roland Pliche, Derrick Woodham, Philip King, Michael Bolus and William Tucker, artists whose work was a challenge to the academic traditions of figurative sculpture, embracing new materials, new ideas and radical abstraction.
Upon his return to Christchurch, Sydow began to incorporate the radical spirit he was exposed to in London into his own works. He exhibited Floorpiece, a PVC pipe sculpture, in the 1969 CSA Group Show. Over the next six years, Sydow produced a comparatively broad body of sculptural work, including the Meander works (1971), Suspensions (1972) and Constructions (1973), as well as a number of supporting drawings. His tragically early death in 1975 cut short an extremely promising art career, but his extant work provides a glimpse into a fascinating and significant sculptural practice.