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N e i l B a i l e y


Neil Bailey is an artist based in East London.His large-scale canvasses, with their striking use of colour and witty manipulation of found objects, have been featured in a number of London exhibitions – and notably at the Royal Academy.

Bailey’s style developed from a pivotal moment as a frustrated art student, after his drawing skills had been completely dismantled but then only partly rebuilt by his teachers. While seeking inspiration in a local pub for his degree show, he sketched a skewed representation of the bar, using distorted angles from an almost fisheye perspective. This combination of distortion and balanced composition became one of the defining characteristics of his work. Post-college, work by artists as diverse as Patrick Caulfield and Marcel Duchamp would help to mould his style, but his parallel career as proprietor of a successful pub signwriting business would also have a major impact.

"I came to London not knowing what I would do," he recalls, "but because I could draw and paint, I found I could signwrite. It made my work tighter, more linear, with flatter colours." Bailey has continued to pursue that almost silk-screened look to his work, while still remaining devoted to putting paint onto canvas. As his style has developed, the distorted angularity of his earlier pieces have made way for more symmetrical, more mathematical compositional devices – for example, in his numerous circular paintings. But, by contrast, the content is often inspired by nature (birds, fish, insects) and found objects (items as diverse as supermarket reward cards, vegetables, plastic flowers and the witch-doctor calling cards distributed around his part of East London).

These disparate images are unified by playful language, with puns, rhymes and assonance providing hidden stories behind the images. But Bailey remains reluctant to over-analyse the thought processes behind his art. "There are meanings behind the pictures – if you want to look for them. But my main intention is to create work that is decorative and entertaining," he explains. The 20 pieces (representing work from the past five years) that form Bailey’s forthcoming exhibition are bold, complex but refreshingly unpretentious, reflecting his unashamedly populist approach. "I’ve never struggled with the notion of whether my paintings ‘work’ or not," he says. "People’s response to them is usually immediate, and I would hope that the pictures speak for themselves."

Certainly, anyone who appreciates a quirky style, a resolutely English sense of humour and aspects of surrealism, combined with a razor-sharp graphic sensibility, will find his work irresistible.


Rhodri Marsden

The Independent

 
 

Education

1977-1978

 

Foundation course Great Yarmouth College of Art

 
1978-1981 BA Hons degree in fine art Loughborough College of Art

1981-1982 Gave up painting after graduation & Moved to London. Gave up chess when omitted from Olympic team and took up crosswords. Became contract cleaner.

1982-1988 Disillusionment with cleaning led to Career move to signwriting. Started painting in secret.

1988-1999

Averaged two paintings a year during Turmoil of starting sign company

1999-2000

Ran out of storage space

2000-2001

Life changing exhibition failed. Started painting in loft conversion.

2001-2006 Stopped painting in secret, averaged three paintings a year. Planned another exhibition, considering chess for 2012.

2007

Jan. Curtains exhibition unqualified success, offered exhibition in Rome

Feb. Took up sculpture

June. “Bespoken” accepted not shown at RA Summer Show

Dec. Recovered from non-smoking injury, took up screen- printing


2008

Rome exhibition red herring. Abandoned screen printing.

Stopped painting after family portrait


2009-2010 Left Bow for Epping with no strings

Took flight to Stansted from Forest Gate

Started painting, sculpting, printing and gardening for new exhibition

2012-2017 Did 3 more sculptures, then put some out to grass.

Downsized business again into back garden.

Started painting, brighter outlook due to cataract surgery.
 
 

Exhibitions


1981 Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.


1982 Sadlers Wells Theatre, London.


1983 Peoples Gallery, Camden, London.


1990 East Cross Centre, Hackney, London.


1999 The Hudson Bay, Forest Gate, London.


2000 'Classic, Heartfelt & Foolish' Gallery on Cork Street, London.


2000 The Briar Rose, Bennetts Hill, Birmingham.


2001 Wetherspoons, Finchley Road, London.


2002 Summer Show Royal Academy, London.


2002 The Drum, Walthamstow, London.


2004 Antidote, Brixton Market, London.


2007 Curtains,
the.gallery@oxo, London.

2010 'Classic, Heartfelt & Foolish Too', La Galleria, Pall Mall