Seeing as a Creative Act
Margit Zuckriegl

As the sensory act of apprehending external appearances in the form of images, seeing is not creative as such, rather it is a physiological activity. It is only the mental and conceptual knowledge that certain previously seen situations and objects recur in relation to one another which gives rise to the possibility, in the moment of seeing, of also accomplishing a similar creative task, through the evocation of comparisons, assumptions, remembrances and symbolically or formally corresponding connotations. The act of seeing is therefore not simply based on the perception of an object, but also on the potential of inferring from the seen object to other objects, or of opening up other contexts. Julie Hayward allows the viewers of her photographic images to participate in her subjectively articulated visual processes. On her walks through forest and meadow, on her wanderings through the flood plain, in the Danube marshland or in the waist-high reed beds of riverside landscapes, she sees strange formations, which become quasi-sculptural forms without any additional assistance from a creative expression of will. This act of seeing sculptural forms almost in spite of herself becomes possible solely through a process of creative vision: it is her sculptor’s eye that produces their visibility. Without this perception, this dissection of the objects from an amorphous, unformed environment, the objects would have remained cloaked in invisibility.

Moreover, the artist’s eye for accidentally discovered objects is not derived from the striving for cognitive knowledge, rather it is characterised by the ability to trace formal correspondences and sculptural values, or qualities that can be experienced by the senses. The tiny little wall, which looks like an abstract sculpture, is interesting for the artist and the viewer not because it connects a (perhaps abandoned) building project and/or a (perhaps arbitrarily set up) boundary marker, but rather because it formulates the aims and demands of abstraction in sculptural forms, almost as purely as works of art from the field of concrete art or Neo-Geo. A tangle of branches, rags and ropes wrapped around a tree trunk is accordingly not a bundle of flotsam and jetsam washed ashore after a flood, but rather an object related to the informal laying down of traces in Land Art or by Environment artists. For the artist, whose own creative work examines in depth the physical qualities of the material that she employs and then displays them in their consistency or contradictory nature, it is precisely these characteristics of the objects accidentally found in her surroundings which arouse her interest: swathed tree trunks, somehow suitable as cultic steles, garden sculptures wrapped in tarpaulins and tied up, towering like magical cult signs, or scrawly roots which intimate the worlds of the beyond like a totem. Here, seeing is an act of selection, of adopting the objects as part of her own artistic oeuvre, incorporating them into the sculptural context by taking photographs of them.

Since 2002, Julie Hayward has occasionally integrated photographs into her exhibition concepts and since 2010/11 she has made continuous progress with her own photographic work. Whereas, at the beginning, she tended to “gather” accidental motifs on her wanderings and place them in a formal relationship to her drawings and objects, i. e. distinguishing, so to speak, related object qualities in various forms, with her later photos she aimed to capture the atmosphere. Ambivalent constellations (such as a lamp in a room, or a sea jellyfish appearing behind the human shadow) emanate feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, or mental disturbance in their very small, compressed, format. This overflows into the space that is taken up by Hayward’s sculptures, objects and drawings – a sensory-cum-emotional correspondence between photography and the spatial situation, in which the photographs have a similar effect to that of energy sources.

In recent years there has been the addition of photographs of found objects, found situations that have “involuntarily“ become objects, as it were – packaging, tied strings, combinations made by a foreign, anonymous hand in unspecified locations discovered by chance.

It is hard to classify Julie Hayward’s approach within the broad spectrum of photographic styles and aesthetics; it fits in neither with the category of documentary photography, nor with that of art photography. Hayward’s photographic impetus is that of seeing and recording seen objects and situations. In doing so, she refers to the “associative” dimension in the interpretation of images, by placing the sculptural qualities of the objects that she discovers in relation to her own artefacts. Just as, in her own sculptures, she is interested in the laws of balance and instability, in the aggregate states of material between flowing, solidifying and ductile melting, what she notices about the seen objects in natural settings or in parks are the uncertainties and the surreality, and sometimes their anecdotal scurrility. She spontaneously documents the objects that she has encountered, at times employing deliberately unfocused and almost incorrectly executed photography, which may include off-colours and blurring, overexposure and underexposure. Nevertheless, she elaborates the objects from her environment precisely, weighing up illuminated elements and unlit spheres, measuring the light, moulding the shadows, dissecting contours and recording the time that is indicated by the degree of brightness and darkness on the objects.

Julie Hayward is neither a proponent of nor an apologist for any one particular kind of photographic practice. She employs the technical and optical possibilities that are in line with the demands of her imaged objects: sometimes what is required is the static, contemplative state of a fixed camera, sometimes the spontaneous thrill of a small digicam, at other times the precise handling of sophisticated optics, at still other times she might be able to dispense with it altogether and rely on the camera’s autonomy.

All in all, these photographs appear less like a continuously progressing series or a previously designed cycle, but rather as if they were composed from the iconic forays which the artist undertakes on her extended walks and cross-country wanderings. A pointedly accentuated colourfulness, for the achievement of which digital media are especially suitable, is the only change that the artist makes to her partly analogue, partly digital photographs, and which endow the elaborate pigment prints with an unreal, artistic atmosphere.

Unintended Sculptures
To find images rather than produce images – that was initially one of the strategies of Surrealism, of integrating an art beyond art in one’s own creaturely cosmos. The highly respected photographer Brassaï, one of the original Surrealists and famous for his views of Paris by night and the protagonists of the demi-monde, had a preference for the more marginal manifestations of art and discovered the spontaneous utterances of unintended art production. He created a series of photographs which he called “sculptures involontaires” and which André Breton published in his magazine “Minotaure” in 1933. These “involuntary sculptures“ are photographs of everyday objects, mundane and discarded things, accorded an unsettling poetic significance by being seen and recorded by him through the medium of photography: a crumpled bus ticket, a small rolled-up piece of paper, three match heads lying somewhere, a piece of soap – Brassaï was on the lookout for what is nondescript, overlooked, unregarded. He saw the irritating beauty of these “sculptures” which had taken on their sculptural form unwittingly – they are not art that has been “made”, but rather objects that have “become”. These images are attested the “character of art” by Brassaï and the Surrealists, and possibly they were valued more highly than traditionally made works of art because – according to the Surrealists – there was something unconscious, unintended and therefore authentic about them.

As in the photographs of Julie Hayward, in the case of Brassaï and his reception by the Surrealists, it was not a matter of the objects and their presence, but rather of the images of these objects. These photographs are therefore not distinguished by their documentary language and the indexical message, but rather by the fact that they themselves first create a pictorial reality. Moreover, it is expected of the viewers that they “forget” the original functional context and the actual genesis of the objects represented. As is usual when interpreting and analysing images, great significance is accorded to the fact of memory, i. e. the incorporation of prior knowledge into the interpretation of the image, so it is explicitly renounced in the special case of the “unintended sculptures”. What should be seen are the sculptural qualities of the objects represented, and in recognising these characteristics a formal and emotional correspondence can then arise. Brassaï’s ticket does not give any information about an individual Metro station or a particular day, but rather about the three-dimensionality of a cardboard roll of matt, raw surfaces, while the isolation of the object from any kind of inferable environment also leaves us in the dark about the actual size and dimensions of the original object. Julie Hayward confronts the viewer with a collection of anonymous situations at a variety of locations. These cryptic scenarios are dominated by unintended sculptures, objects and things which have become something that no-one intended. They themselves may have forgotten what they originally were – for the photograph they became pictorial motifs, which open up an associative scope for pictorial analogies. This is where the photographer becomes involved, since – as an artist – she is convinced of the symbolic design of the world through images, and encounters the sculptress, who perceives designed objects in the world. Julie Hayward’s world is full of symbolic references and extensions. As a way of providing an impulse for the imagination, her formal repertoire is made up of sculptural objects: this one indicates medical equipment, that one a technical detail, this material stands for perfect processing and precision, that one for unpleasant haptic experiences, this colour signifies coldness and distance, that one sensuousness and warmth. From such components she puts together new, unknown, unrecognised objects which likewise intimate something beyond their mere presence: what might have been their purpose, are they mysterious, do they symbolise an unknown dimension?

By forgetting to take into consideration the original genesis of the photographed objects, we can allocate them to the formal vocabulary and thereby to the individual treasury of symbols of Hayward’s oeuvre, and attest to their existence as images of unintended sculptures alongside the artist’s intended sculptures.

The Space of the Sculptural
Since, in general, artists who are preoccupied with three-dimensional designs are designated according to the works of their creative activity, i. e. object artists, sculptors or space artists or installation artists, there is an inference or a throwback from the phenomenology of the work to its physical presence. Of necessity, a sculpture or an object, and even a performance or a projection, has an existent spatial fact as its basic precondition. Only in space (even if it be the apparently limitless media space of the World Wide Web) does the presence of an artistic articulation become manifest. The work is experienced and perceived by the recipients through their visual dialogue with the art object. This is the point of art presentations, whether they occur in gallery spaces, artists’ studios, museums, or in the “showrooms” of catalogues, art books, lectures or participatory projects. Space is designed for and through art objects.

With her new conception of exhibitions, Julie Hayward is now transcending these glass walls of the art-in-space-presentation, insofar as, on the one hand, she uses this spatial dimension for the presentation of her object-like works and her installation arrangements, while on the other hand introducing a new space of the sculptural. She comments on and extends her own sculptural work by the means of photographs, which make it possible to have an additional experience of space and objects: by combining her complex sculptures made of metal and rubber, or her congealed artefacts made from moulds and models, with completely different kinds of photographs, she produces an exciting contrast of similarity and difference, of correspondence and the unfathomable space between formal affinities and the antipodes of content.

In her sporadic photographic work – as in her sculptural positions – Julie Hayward is wholly a “seer of the spatial”; she is on the trail of the space of the sculptural and discerns its presence in her immediate vicinity. By admitting the design potential of nature, the unintended powers and energies of water and wind, vegetation and the earth, as well as the remains and signs of everyday human acts, she integrates them as “spatial views” into her sculptural work. For Julie Hayward, the space of the sculptural is thereby a space for some sculptural form that is potentially always present – independently of whether it is an art space defined by installation objects, a natural space that provides the setting for unintended art works, or a media space used as a platform for the study of the specialities of perception in general.