For most, dust is a non-object, a collection of life’s leftovers: dirt, hair, pollen, fibres all collecting on surfaces and in corners as time does its work. Dust’s physical presence then also comes to carry many meanings. Socially, it is often associated with carelessness, neglect, and poor housekeeping; symbolically, it recalls loss, mystery, memory, death . British artist Paul Hazelton explores these meanings by giving dust new sculptural forms, turning what was once a mere marker of the old and forgotten into a precious object all its own.
For Hazelton, this process of creating something out of nothing poses obvious existential questions. He writes of his skeletal work Being and Nothingness (2007) that it “exists as a result of something that was forced into being. That is what I do – if it doesn’t exist I will make it exist. For Sartre, what defines us is our undefined non-determined nature. If this is true, then our awareness of what we are not forces us to invent something from the nothingness of our being.”
Hazelton’s works delicately illustrates a close relationship between decay and creation with a medium that resists conventions of contemporary art display. While many museums and galleries work diligently to shield their treasures from mortality that dust’s presence implies, Hazelton looks to dust itself as meaningful sculptural material, infused with symbolic power.