Through laborious work and constant experimentation Ray Haydon has developed processes to generate a seamless elegance in his sculpture, curving linear materials to create fluid forms that appear to be in flux. Working directly into his chosen medium, or sometimes mapping out ideas with maquettes, Haydon lets his fascination with movement and fluidity play out in abstract expressionist sculptures on both monumental and intimate scales.
According to Ananda Coomaraswamy“Beauty is the attractive power of perfection”; and it isbeauty in this sense that is pivotal in Haydon’s practice. We all value beauty, yet contemporary art seems to negate traditional ideals of beauty as a worthy value system. However, achieving perfection is inseparable from achieving technical mastery; and, while clearly art need not only be beautiful (or beautiful at all), the wholesale rejection of beauty can also mean negating the value of the sometimes strenuous labour that goes into the choice to strive towards that ideal.
Ray Haydon relishes the challenges that come with his particular approach to beauty in his art. His sophisticated technical understanding has arisen over his long career of making and producing, spanning nearly 50 years. During that time he has been a jeweller, industrial designer, maker of bespoke parts for super yachts, and an artist. Throughout all his different experiences he was developing the skills which are now integral to his art practice, affording him a uniquely varied approach to material manipulation.
With his impressive workshop of hand-made tools and years of developing techniques, Haydon is able to fabricate kinetic, outdoor, and indoor sculpture, bending various seemingly unbendable materials with perceived ease. This can be seen in Untitled (2015); stainless steel bent and moulded into a fluid form with any signs of ‘making’hidden from view. This immovable object gains a sense of movement; it is as if the steel’s original form becomes a distant memory; the new shape he creates becomes its natural state of being.
Haydon gives the same sense of movement to carbon fibre, as seen in Untitled 0707 (Volume Series) and Untitled 0465 (Volume Series). Through an almost reverse process, this initially soft, fabric-like technology is moulded into shape, then left to set until it is as robust as the supercars, aeroplanes and military equipment that are also made from it.
The methodical nature of Haydon’s making across his variety of substrates provides a sense of ease for its audience; his sculptures are easy to look at, easy to value, and easy to appreciate. The continuous evolution of Haydon’s practice shows that, even while he has developed such strong methods of making, he still remains adaptable to technological changes.
Working with such a precise technical approach, even small changes in materials can have a significant effect on Haydon’s practice. For example, when he recently lost his usual supply of timber for his wall-mounted sculptures, Haydon was unable to continue to use the formula he had originally developed for bending mahogany. Rather than changing just one aspect of the work, this necessitated rethinking every element to form an entirely new process. Ultimately, this challenge has allowed the artist to make a series of subtle improvements to his works, which have resulted in some of his most robust sculptures to date, with works like Origin (2015) demonstrating Haydon’s refinements. Perhaps the most skilful aspect of Haydon’s own practice is that these technological changes and challenges are not visible to the audience, exemplifying the artist’s desire that the expert fashioning of his media should remain secondary to the form itself.
The Maori proverb 'Kaore te kumara e korero mo tona māngaro' is a well-known whakatauki that translates to “The kumara does not speak of its own sweetness”; and Ray Haydon definitely doesn’t speak of his. Haydon’s mastery is clear assoon you share a space with his work, yet each technically sophisticated piece quietly speaks for itself. Every sculpture receives the same level of thoughtfulness being groomed through laborious processes. All this occurs in the privacy of the artist’s workshop; by the time his work reaches its exhibition space it is a flawlessly finished example of beauty in form, ready to confidently stand alone.
Essay by Lana Lopesi
Collections: James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland
Public Exhibitions: NZ Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island(2012); Sculpture Court, Auckland Art Fair (2011); Shapeshifter, Wellington (2010); NZ Sculpture OnShore, North Shore City (2008); Sculpture in Central Otago (2007)
Publications/Articles: 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, pg 128
Artworks featured in: New Zealand House and Garden, Dec 2012; Mar 2011, Jan 2010;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, Spring/Summer 2011; Kia Ora, Mar 2011; Trends Renovation Issue, Vol 26, no. 7, 2010 and Vol 25, no. 7, 2009; Sea Spray, Jul/Aug 2009; Alfresco, Mar/Apr 2009, Sept/Oct 2008; Urbis, Luxury Issue no. 47, 2009; Sunday Star Times Magazine, 18 Jan 2009; 11 Nov 2007; Next, Oct 2008; Inside Out, May/June 2008; NZ Life and Leisure, Jan/Feb 2008, Issue 17; Reynolds, Patrick and John Walsh, New New Zealand Houses, Auckland: Random House NZ, 2007, pp 12, 164-172 (artwork feature Journey, Connection); New Zealand Home and Garden, Apr 2007; Urbis Landscape, Feb-Apr 2006, Issue 7; Urbis, Summer 2005-2006
View exhibition »