Artist invites viewers back for a closer look

By Helen Frances

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LOT OF DOT: Artist Glen Hayward with his "blank" canvas.
LOT OF DOT: Artist Glen Hayward with his "blank" canvas.

Conspicuous by its apparent absence of any image, Glen Hayward's entry in the 2016 Belton Smith & Associates Arts Review, currently on display at Sarjeant on the Quay, is more than it seems.

It is 670,000 dots of white paint organised in such a way so as to depict a blank canvas, with wood carved to resemble a stretched canvas folded at the corners.

Hayward used a square and a comb dipped in white paint to create the warp of the material, then painted the weft in tiny dots applied with a super fine brush. He painted 10sq cm of the 1200x800sq mm board every day for about a month.

The work has attracted a range of responses - indignation, bewilderment, intrigue, curiosity, as well as admiration for the concept and craftsmanship.

"In a way, as an artist, you are gifting a part of yourself for the audience to consider," Hayward says.

"On the other hand, that could potentially be a stink bomb, if it's something they don't want.

"If a work is divisive, it's quite nice, but an audience doesn't have to be divided. People can be divided within themselves - at first they might say, 'Oh, it's just a blank canvas', then go back and realise it's a really invested object.

"It's crafted in order to produce this illusion - so you can be both one who does and doesn't get the joke."

This is Hayward's third "blank canvas". Another, which he made in Switzerland, comprises approximately one million dots and sold to the bass player in a band who "fell in love with it".

The "blank canvas" as an object brings viewers up close to the material of the painting, whereas a painting of an image such as a cow in a field creates distance, Hayward says.

"In some way I have collapsed that distance so that the closer you get - it's just a bit of the canvas it's depicting, and the paint is a depiction of the material we are looking at.

"There is the materiality of the work - in one sense it's splodges of oil paint; in another sense it's a depiction of [for example] a cow. What I've tried to do is bring those two things so close together - to where you are looking just at the paint and, at the same time, you are seeing an object in space, both depicting something and showing the material."

Hayward crafts wood sculptures that present again everyday objects and challenge viewers' perceptions of reality.

Where traditional works of art allow us to appreciate the craftsmanship of the artist, conceptual art is more concerned with the presentation of the message than the material used to present it. Therefore, this allows us to engage more with the idea behind the artwork and reconsider what makes something art.

"It is not always easy for public art galleries to manage the balance between showing conceptual art forms alongside more traditional works," says Greg Donson, Sarjeant Gallery curator and public programmes manager.

"When the new extension opens in 2019, we will have a magnificent facility with a variety of gallery spaces. We will be able to show a broad spectrum of artistic practices, from traditional to contemporary work, including conceptual, video and installation-based practice.

Hayward is currently completing new work for his exhibition Super ordinary which will also include work from the early 2000s to 2016. This will be on view from May 14 at the Sarjeant Gallery's object-based gallery upstairs in the i-Site building.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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