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Lightsculpt by Michael Haylen

“Michael Haylen is an image maker with experience grounded in science and sculpture. Qualified and experienced in Earth Science Geology, Environmental Science, Philosophy of Science and aesthetic practice together with Fine Arts and Sculpture, Michael took the long way round to a career in photography. This diversity of interests and knowledge, combine easily to nourish his approach to photographic art.”

From Australian Photography 2012


The Lightsculpt series celebrates form and invites a sense of journey. Michael is an image maker with local rivers stirring his sense of place. I create illusions of figure and form from the still surface of rivers, evoking amorphous, lyrical and visceral responses. Often shooting from cliffs with a zoom lens into the mirror like radiance of the sun’s reflected beam of white light, I capture silver-blue halos of sky and cloud radiating off the water. Forms are created from gradations of light and shade like carving into the block of a single image.

Haylen’s inspiration was sparked when he first observed the brilliance of the sun’s halo reflected back into his lens from the still surface of the water. Coloured auras from silver mercury to intense spectral arrays were interacting with the viscous meniscus, creating other worldly forms at the interface of realms. He shoots at the reflected and refracted light from cliffs above rivers when time of day and season allow the apparitions to appear. By adopting dark glasses and a zoom lens at high f-stops he is able to capture a vista which is unseen by the naked eye.
The meniscus of still water was probably man’s first mirror and can be a symbol and metaphor for skin and the interface between realms. Like our skin layer holding in our bodily fluids to maintain form, so the meniscus presents skin as a canvas for the body illusions. Over time, Haylen decided to penetrate the water surface with sticks and stones, creating radial waves spreading out from the rim of impact, together with splatter rings displaying detailed mercury textures transmuted by light. It’s as if light thickens in water, creating other worldly forms at the interface of realms.


Sandy Edwards, Creative Producer and Curator of Stills Gallery and Arthere, had this to say at Haylen’s solo exhibition during her introduction speech at the opening night in September 2016: “Words to describe Michael’s work are mysterious, magical and magnificent. They are powerful lyrical images engaging fantasies and a fresh and curious view of the world. A view that is unfiltered with the mental constraints that the mind tries to make sense of things with, real or created, really unusual and really different. I think Michael’s photography is a tool and it’s a medium. However the key to understanding Michael’s process is something to do with his history. That he began his artistic career as a sculptor and has an impressive history in science. Form is often the subject of Michael’s work. It’s how light creates form. He manifests things from nature. So what is it I respond to in this very magical, nonlinear non-rational work?”
“It is an emotive response, they can engage the feeling state of a child and then we get right back to the essential elements that we all understand as air, water and fire. But is he an essentialist? I think he is, and then we see archetypes and lifeforms emerging from the images and we create our own fantasies around that. And so what I’m describing is this kind of visceral, elemental response through feelings, through simple things and also larger things which connect ultimately to life and death. It’s what we understand about being alive and about death. He talks about the meniscus as skin, how the surface of water is like how our skin holds in our bodily fluids. So in some way is Michael’s work spiritual or biblical? It’s like he asks us to go deep into ourselves and connect through our deeper self and come up with our own sense of what it is to do with life and death.”


All artists strive to come up with something different, something we haven’t seen before. Some of his ‘Lightsculpt’ illusions have been considered in this category. He owns the process and product and his intent is to continue to ask questions into ‘the otherness of things’. Shooting water surface is ever changing. Each time he visits a waterway he discovers new takes on the theme. Being surrounded by water, he suspects his journey will continue in some form.

The Creative Process:

This is how Michal describes his creative process: “The work deals with the visceral of life, involved in passages and changes but eventually arriving at a stable state. It’s a place of contemplation, joy and a sense of Otherness. With symbol, metaphor and archetype, I create forms from nature to evoke a response from the viewer. Creativity takes courage. There is nothing in life, more necessary than the unnecessary. Creative acts help balance the psyche. Creative art can live in real or imagined space, can make time seem a little longer, can make time transform, like contact between art and the viewer, it can add an ‘imagined third’, somehow always there, that same imagined third. It awakens the ‘unseen sense’ when for one awful instant, we remember we forgot. This is when creativity is working well.

The print interpretation:

The images are printed on a new fine textured product, between one to two metres in size, it changes the way the eye reads an everyday subject when it is enlarged and depicted large resulting in multiple interpretations of what the viewer might think they see. Exploring three dimensional and reflected forms as energy lines work into the darks and lights. You get the sense that it’s not really the object that matters in the end, it’s the revelation of the object.”

Recent exhibitions and awards include:

2019 – 2020 At “Once Upon A Time In BOWRAL” – & At “Springett’s Arcade BOWRAL” – Southern Highlands Exhibitions – CURRENT

2019 MATERIALITY– NEBULI ARTS HeadOn Photo Festival – ART SPACE Concourse Chatswood
2018 NEBULI in 12 PARTS – ART SPACE Concourse Chatswood
2017 Contact Sheet Gallery, St. Leonards – Exhibition – ‘A SECRET’
2017 The Cheese Factory Robertson SOLO2016 – 2019 Marcus Loane House Warriewood SOLO
2016 Concourse Artspace Chatswood SOLO – ‘PRETTY BIG PICTURES’ – Nebuli Arts
2016 Depot Gallery 2 Danks Street Waterloo Sydney ARTHERE – ‘COTERIE’ Head On Photo Festival
2016 Art Studios Gallery Gosford – TEXTURES
2014 Australian Photography Compendium 4 ‘EDITIONS’ Exhibition – SPOT81 Gallery Chippendale
2013 Head On Photo Festival Gallery Lane Cove – ‘FIGURE AND FORM’- Nebuli Arts
2013 Incinerator Art Space Willoughby – ‘PASSUS’ Nebuli Arts
2013 Exhibiting artist with Sandy Edwards Arthere Projects
2012 Syndicate at 2 Danks Street Waterloo Sydney Arthere Projects   – ‘WATER MAGICIAN’
2012 Head On Photo Festival – ‘HOUSE OF CARDS 2’Charing Cross Photo Gallery – SOLO
2011 Head On Photo Festival – ‘HOUSE OF CARDS’ Charing Cross PHOTO GALLERY – SOLO
2012 Head On Photo Festival – Incinerator Art Space ‘DARK ROOM to LIGHT ROOM’
2010 Meyer Gallery Sydney –‘ENERGY OF FORM’ SOLO
2011 Gold Medal Portrait FIAP Sydney International Exhibition of Photography
2009 Highly Commended – Mural of Survivorship National Awards
2008 1st Place – Hunter Valley Botanic Prize

Reviewed and Reproduced in:

2016 SILVERSHOTZ – Special Edition – Australian Contemporary Photographers Portfolios – Michael Haylen: Lightsculpt – Vol 11 Ed 1 Oct 2016
2014 Australian Photography Compendium 4
2012 Silvershotz International Journal of Contemporary Photography – Selected Artist Folio Annual
2011 Australian Photography and Gallery Compendium
2012 Australian Photography
2011 Silvershotz International Journal of Contemporary Photography Vol 7 Ed 6
2012 & 2010 Photo Review Magazine
2010 to 2013 Sports Photographer – The Weekly Times, Sydney Morning Herald, North Shore Times
2010 & 2011 Editors Pick – Featured Artist – ABC Arts
2010 The Drum

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See Michael’s Silvershotz gallery.

See Michael’s gallery.

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