First published in New Forest Country Magazine Autumn 02
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the forest is an ancient house hidden behind a secret walled garden. It is here Martin Hayward-Harris lives, in a stone building which was originally built as a safe house for Henry, the King of England from 1100AD, the fourth son of William the Conqueror.
It is certainly an aged building, an antique… when Martin bought it three years ago, it’s only mod-cons were the cold water taps in the kitchen and an old tin bath in the corner of what is now his sitting room.
Martin pushed a steaming mug of coffee across the worktop…
‘Before I show you my work I must warn you,’ he said smiling through his steamed-up glasses… ‘that I’ve been accused more than once, of an acute, almost obsessive sense of the natural world. I think I should have been more a part of it than born into this man-body. I would have preferred to have been born a wild cat perhaps.’
‘Was it not Mark Twain who said, If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way?’ I asked.
Whilst we sipped our coffee, Martin filled me in on his rise to becoming the sought after sculptor he has grown to be.
‘My parents would send me to an uncle's farm during the school holidays. When I was there I could draw and mingle with all sorts of animals. I loved being in the countryside, so close to nature and even then I began to recognise that my art and the natural world were intrinsically linked, the most important things to me, it’s what rocked my boat!’
It was whilst at college he could fully indulge his passion for art, free to perfect each of his chosen art-forms, printmaking, photography and illustration.
‘To be honest,’ he said, ‘every project always ended with something representing a more three-dimensional form. That course gave me a great deal of confidence right from the beginning of my studies.’
After college, Martin worked at Shepperton film studios.
‘I was there for a year and a half, it was fantastic. I made some amazing sculptures in all sorts of materials for a number of films and TV programmes.’
Martin then saw an ad for a model maker and taxidermist at the Natural History Museum in London.
‘That was the best grounding I could have had, because it gave me the chance for hands-on experience with large animals. I was responsible for measuring them and producing anatomical drawings. I would also prepare them for preservation. Working for what was then the best museum of natural history in the world changed my life.’
Then a new chapter emerged, an extended holiday.
‘I decided to pack my easel and travel around Sweden. The countryside was incredible, completely unspoiled, it seemed to retain a purity I’d not experienced before. Sometimes I felt I was the first person to set foot in some of the places I visited. I painted what I think was my best work at that time… just me and life, natural life. I was simply reinterpreting what was right in front of me.’
A number of successful one-man exhibitions followed, but over time, there came a gradual transition from painting to drawing and then translating those illustrations into a three-dimensional form – sculpture.
The way in which he creates his bronze life-sized animal sculptures would not be possible without his instinctive love of nature, his unique knowledge of the physiology of animals. As you cast your hand over the expressive, lifelike surfaces… simply because you feel compelled to do it, you feel they are the sculptural equivalent of the impressionists.
From the mid-1990’s Martin’s sculptures were acquired by the auction house Christies, Hayward-Harris was then shown to a greater audience of collectors.
‘I feel it important that some of my work goes to people who are connoisseurs of this art form. It shows they respect what I’m doing and that in effect proves to me that I’m doing the right thing, a good marker as it were.’
The simplicity of form and the sensitivity to the material he uses gives each piece a stillness, an ageless form, yet running parallel to this unmistakably classic facade, there is something remarkably contemporary too.
You can see Martin Hayward-Harris’ work locally at The Wykeham Gallery in Stockbridge and at Fisherton Mill in Salisbury. You may also contact him directly. Tel: +44 (0)1491 652006 or Email: email@example.com and his website www.hayward-harris.co.uk
© Simon Lawrence
is a writer and photographer; he is also a lecturer in higher education and runs a number of private, retreats, courses and workshops...
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