Hadyn’s art practice explores relationships between past and present, the real and imaginary, history and myth.
Many of his projects have referenced historical and narrative imagery that as he explains “attempts to define our contemporary situation within the context of art history, inheritance and society”.
Living the creative life for over forty years he spends his time between his studio and home in Wollombi and his Sydney studio at Coburn Fine Art in Georges Heights, Mosman. Although having moved between these two locations for many years, the stimulation of these two very different environments has somehow worked in a way that provides constant inspiration.
His very diverse career has included paintings, public sculpture, and what he calls ‘cut outs’ (low-relief paper sculpture), as well as experimenting with many mediums. “Looking back over the years I’ve come to realise that although having experimented in different ways, the consistent thread is the nexus between humanity and environment”.
Hadyn was 2019 Artist-in-Residence at the NSW State Library and had an exhibition there in 2021 titled, ‘Fake Truths: An Historical Novel’. The exhibition referenced the NSW State Library’s substantial collection of realia as well as their vast collection of historic paintings which he used along with his own reinterpretations to say something about the history as well as the lost history of these objects.
John McDonald from his Sydney Morning Herald article, ‘When fantasy teases reality’ (5-6 June 2021) said about this exhibition, Hadyn has “produced a sustained exercise of visual and verbal wit it’s a remarkable achievement”.
“It’s a game with a serious intent, namely to stimulate our critical faculties, to ask us to become more aware of the highly motivated ways we look at works of art or interpret historical events. Wilson is implicitly challenging the aura of scientific objectivity attached to museums and libraries showing that all displays come with a raft of cultural assumptions. As a pantomime that mingles historical research with pure fantasy, ‘Fake Truths’ leaves us wondering just how much fiction lies undisclosed in the version of history that we accept as fact.”
Also in 2021 he had a commercial exhibition at ARO Gallery in Darlinghurst titled, ‘A Narrative Stroll’. That exhibition was a collection of some of his favourite artworks over recent years. A sort of mini survey of drawings, paintings, cut outs and light boxes many of which had not been shown before.
In 2020 Hadyn was invited to be part of the Portraits Project celebrating the gallery’s 90th Anniversary. He was also Guest Judge at the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize.
In 2019 he had an exhibition, ‘An Historical Novel. (An Archive of Found Histories)’ at NERAM (New England Regional Art Museum) in Armidale. It was opened by John McDonald on 5 July and concluded on 13 October.
Quote from John McDonald at the opening “If you’re like Hadyn and you do a lot of different things, things that are intelligent, things that are based on projects that require stylistic difference which ask you to challenge yourself and change the way you think, the way you work, it’s not the standard ordinary thing to do for an artist.”
His exhibitions ‘An Historical Novel. (An Archive of Found Histories)’, NERAM (2019), ‘An Historical Novel. (An Archive of Found Artefacts)’ (2018) and ‘An Historical Novel (The Sydney Artist Camps)’, Mosman Art Gallery (2017-2018) predominantly responded to the Howard Hinton Collection of painters (Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Sydney Long and Elioth Gruner).
Katrina Cashman, Mosman Art Gallery Curator said of his work: “Hadyn Wilson’s large scale installation of appropriated images is a tour de force. It invites close inspection as each painting presents a revisionist expression based on original masterpieces of the time, in a comment on the era’s fabled histories and the reliable and unreliable narratives that surround them.”
In 2017 he launched an exciting international public art project called ‘Locus Non Consequensia’ which is ongoing.
In 2009 his PHD graduate exhibition at Cessnock Regional Art Gallery called ‘Stories from the Archive: A Palaeobotanical Narrative’,
Director and Gallery Curator, Virginia Mitchell said of his work: “Artist, historian, scientist, environmentalist and curious onlooker Wilson seeks to tease out multiple layers of understanding and engagement with nature”.
In 2007 his survey show at Manly Art Gallery and Museum, ‘Hadyn Wilson: A Real Allegory’,
John McDonald from his Sydney Morning Herald article, ‘A ribbon for artistic pedigree’ (April 2007) “Contemporary art can be a frivolous affair, but not for Hadyn Wilson (b.1955), who sees content and meaning as paramount. Wilson is a genuine history painter who does not simply address “issues” in a superficial way, but looks hard at the details. His preoccupations are social, political and environmental, but he filters these interests through the lens of art history, as if to remind us that the battle between nature and culture has an age-old artistic pedigree”.
Critics have variously described Hadyn’s work as challenging and surprising.
Bruce James in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 referred to Hadyn as an artist who is an “underrated star who paints up a storm and a story”.
Terrence Maloon in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1986 spoke of an artist with “exceptional graphic abilities”.
In his sell out exhibition at New South Wales House in London in 1985, Patricia Still in the The London Weekly Diary described his work thus “Ably supported by a mastery of his medium, his oils show a view of the world where everything is brightly painted curtain cloth while his drawings are strange but intriguing mythologies of crowded figures”.
Hadyn Wilson has over the years defended his position of a self-conscious diversity and sees this as a principle of his underlying philosophy. To quote from Guy Warren. “Many years ago I decided that, unlike some artists I know I wasn’t going to paint exactly the same picture all my life. That might be great for the bank balance but it’s bad for the soul. When you start copying yourself you die”.
Hadyn graduated from the Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney in 1975 and in 1992 completed a Graduate Diploma of Art through the Australian National University, Canberra. In 1995 he completed his Masters of Fine Arts (Class 1 Honours) at COFA (University of NSW) and in 2010 he received his PHD at the University of Newcastle, NSW where in 2012 he was a Finalist in the ‘Newton-John Award’.
Hadyn had early career success in 1983 winning the Sydney Morning Herald Travelling Art Scholarship and awarded the Art Gallery of New South Wales ‘Dyson Bequest’ which took him on a study tour to the UK, France and Germany. In 1990 he won the Qantas Amnesty International Figurative Award which included a study tour to the US, Amsterdam and Prague. He’s had countless solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia and overseas and two major survey exhibitions in regional galleries here. He’s won a number of prizes, including the 2011 Gallipoli Art Prize and the 1988 Mosman Art Prize and has been a finalist in the 1990 and 1983 Archibald Prize, 1999, 1988 and 1987 Sulman Prize and 2016 and 1996 Wynne Prize. His artworks are included in many respected collections such as the Australian National University, Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Manning River Regional Gallery, Mosman Art Gallery, University of New South Wales, University of Technology.