Negative space is defined by the solid objects it surrounds. This is one of the physical aspects of Ray Haydon’s sculptural practice that really matters; he is actively “painting” the air with materials to fabricate constructions in space.
In the same spirit of the Russian Constructivists like Naum Gabo, Haydon understands and is constantly testing the variable ways that materials such as steel, wood and carbon fibre can take on extraordinary new forms – pure materiality, monochromatic economy and complicated structures made to maximise spatial dynamics.
His recent works from the Manoeuvre and Knot series are crafted from carbon fibre and timber veneer and give form to graceful movement such as one might expect to see in the ribbon event from an Olympic rhythmic gymnast. The works’ open-ended and interweaving lengths vary in “knottedness” underscoring the expert understanding of materiality that Haydon exploits.
Each work is a suspension of the materials in time and space and we are privy to viewing the kinetic rhythms of the basic perceptions of real time. This is no mean feat: because, for solid materials to appear this way, there must be an intimate knowledge of the peculiarity of the materials for each work.
Haydon has an in-depth knowledge of the materials he employs. Before embarking on his artistic career he worked as a jeweller for many years, and then later constructing and designing fittings for super yachts. These experiences all lead to the symbiotic relationship he has with all of the different materials he uses.
The respect for each of the selected materials is evident in Haydon’s practice. Whether Corten steel, stainless steel, bronze, wood, carbon fibre or veneer, his media defy their original material purposes to become constructions. His Reflector series (2017) uses much chunkier tubular stainless steel which possesses a new voluptuous sensuality. This is heightened by the smooth super glossy steel that has been burnished to achieve a mirror finish; a new direction that adds the element of solidity whilst still maintaining the permeability of the object.
Outdoor works differ greatly from works exhibited in a gallery context because they are required to propose and suggest a new and foreign object to a site that could be populated by trees, buildings, people and colour, while also being dictated to by the elements. These variables require the artist to be attuned to the environment. Scale, shape, suitable materials are the considerations that Haydon successfully negotiates. Works that require wind to activate movement mean that the works need to be fit for purpose: to that end, Haydon employs crafting methodologies used in boat building, furniture construction and jewellery making techniques to ensure the longevity of the works.
Travel I & II (2015), constructed from Corten steel, are examples of large scale outdoor works that are Moebius strips (a one sided flat strip that twists and joins in an eternal continuity), incredible feats of curvilinear beauty. Other outdoor works such as Oscillate (2019), Vela (2014) and Velorum (2013), both moulded and formed from carbon fibre, are site-responsive among trees, alluding to and reaching up to the surrounding vegetation. Named for constellations, these works sit majestic, pointing up to the stars that were said to have been used as navigation by Jason and the Argonauts.
Haydon is constantly considering the unending physical propositions that lay in wait within the materials. With the most unforgiving and difficult media to work with, Haydon bends, twists and forms works that show a fluidity of movement from the most rigid beginnings.
Essay by Leafa Wilson
BORN: 1950, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
LIVES: Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
COLLECTIONS: Newmarket Arts Trust, The James Wallace Arts Trust
PUBLIC EXHIBITIONS/COMMISSIONS: NZ Sculpture on the Shore Commission for Newmarket Arts Trust, Teed Street Redevelopment, Newmarket (installed 2022); NZ Sculpture OnShore, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland (2023, 2018, 2016, 2008), Shapeshifter, Poneke Wellington (2016, 2014, 2010); St Kentigern College, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland (2014); NZ Sculpture on the Gulf, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland (2012); Sculpture Court, Auckland Art Fair (2011); Sculpture in Central Otago, Otago (2007)
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY: 'Ray Haydon: Dancing with Materials' Interview by Dr Andrew Paul Wood, ArtZone Magazine, Issue 96, p.56-57, Sept 2023; “Painting the Air” Home Magazine, p.21, Sept 2023; Mullins, Kate, “Featured Artist: Ray Haydon” NZ House & Garden, Sept 2023; Howard, Laura, Ray Haydon: Sculpture, Auckland: Sanderson Contemporary, 2014; Brown, Warwick, Seen this Century, North Shore City: Random House NZ, 2009; ‘Exploring space and absence’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Aug 2009; ‘Earthy and Lyrical’, Art News New Zealand, Spring 2006, p 128
ARTWORKS FEATURED IN: Denizen Autumn Issue, Spring Issue 2023; Denizen Autumn Issue 2022, The New Zealand Herald, May 2019, May 2017, Jan 2015; House and Garden, Jul 2014, Dec 2012, Mar 2011, Jan 2010; Homestyle New Zealand, Dec/Jan 2014; Home New Zealand, Apr/May 2011, Feb/Mar 2011, Dec/Jan 2011, Apr/May 2008, Dec/Jan 2008; Design Folio: New Zealand’s Definitive Design Collection, Issue 4, 2011; Urbis, Luxury Issue, No. 47, 2009; NZ Life and Leisure, Jan/Feb 2008; Reynolds, Patrick and John Walsh, New New Zealand Houses, Auckland: Random House NZ, 2007, pp 12, 164-172; Urbis Landscape, Feb-Apr 2006; Urbis, Summer 2005-2006