There is an element in Hay’s work that is invested with emotion through which the audience’s consideration is elicited. This begins with modest seemingly uncomplicated materials that might be found or seen anywhere. Hay has the uncanny ability to pair the disparate in ways that suggest each component was made specifically for another. The classical Unprepared (2010) for example is a grand piano stripped of varnish, its front leg removed causing it to slide into the floor. Attacked; the lid is pierced by a hail of arrows evoking the incongruent genres of Western and (soap) Opera in a way that inspires simultaneous amusement and sadness. The arrow is a recurring motif in Hay’s work as seen again in Measure Once, Cut Twice, (2010) a bunch of caged walnuts pierced by a gigantic steel arrow. The arrow is a potent symbol of love and aggression.
As one struggles through Hay’s studio, stepping over a wheelbarrow with flight aspirations, avoiding a bent spike emerging from a fagot of sticks with red painted tips seemingly in dialogue with the red topped ladder from which grows a strange prickly copper protrusion – the barriers between found and made objects begin to dissolve. Hay makes objects that look as if they have been found and finds objects that appear to have been made by him. As he brings these together with objects that we know have been either made or found, a curious body emerges.
It seems almost unfortunate that Paul Hay’s sculptures must eventually leave his studio. This is not to say they should never be seen in public or they are unsuitable for a gallery, but rather, they reflect an energetic studio practice. In the nursery each work exists in relation to its siblings as well as to the tools of its making and an encompassing conceptual gestalt. Here, the eccentric objects of Hay’s imagination materialise from the vices, clamps, a gas cylinder, plastic bottles of toxic chemicals and the very benches upon which they were forged. The studio is a habitat, where everything fits and nothing, however odd, seems out of place. As one idea blends with another there are moments when individual works do not appear to have been separated. The curator who enters into this zone of cohesion with a view to making sense of the studio’s inspired chaos is immediately cursed. Hay’s work will not be easily evicted and will resist transportation.
Excerpt from catalogue essay by David Broker; photograph by Brenton McGeachie.