I use the phrase "figurative" with some trepidation, because although these works have figures in them, they are not classical representations of the human form. Instead, they are probably a late 20th century (and from now on, a 21st century) interpretation of the experiments conducted earlier by the pioneers of "modern art". Picasso and the work of the surrealists have made such a profound impression on all aspects of the visual, that their legacy is universal, therefore, to create images in a similar way, is done virtually unconsciously.
I was also
interested in and influenced by the neo-primitive expressionist movement
that was the happening in the art world at that time, in the early 1980's.
The German artists, like Baselitz, Lupertz, Immendorf and especially A.
R. Penck - the Italians, Clemente and Paladino, and the mighty Americans,
Basquiat and Haring, were of great interest to me. My work of this time
reflects the dialogue that these artists were expressing. This, coupled
with science fiction and comic book art, and the non-stop barrage of images
from the T.V., cultivated the warped view of the human form as I saw (see)
it. I was also experimenting a lot and the work could quite often look
like the production of more than just one artist. However, I believe that
there is a thematic core that unites this body of work.
By the mid to late 80's, this figurative phase had become less important as my interest in realising the Abstract increased. I was also aware of and open to the prevelant notions of the post-modern, appropriation and conceptualism. Although I did not practice a firm allegience to any of these concepts, I was aware that I needed to make my work in a more planned and structured way. This manifested itself in the photo-realistic tunnel paintings of the early 90's. However the urgent need to express my art in the figurative form arises from time to time. I often have a sketchbook on the go, which contain hundreds of variations on the theme of the human form, and strange characters, doing odd things in peculiar surroundings. Most recently, in 1999, I did a big series of drawings of the faces of various odd-ball personalities, which I will put online some time in the future.
Since 2003 I have been working on these b/w face portrait drawings,
scanning them up and colouring them in and they look really groovy, I
think. I now have a whole family of these mutant characters, which all
have individual names. I will attempt to put show them on the website
sometime, but meanwhile, here are four
My non-representational paintings are eclectic in form and content. They range from multi-formed, brightly coloured works to all-over, mono-chromatic paintings investigating the possibilities of surface. Most of them have a "spiritual" core to them, very few of them are devoid of feeling or "emotion". Quite often there is a symmetrical balance present, and sometimes a piece will comprise of multiples of canvases. Geometry plays an important role, with the grid and circular forms being especially prevalant. More recently, I have been using buttons and beads as highlights of texture and colour in the work.
figurative work, the abstract, with which it ran in tandem, is a quite
a mixed bag of ideas and proceedures. The early pieces were knowingly
experimental, and wilfully different from each other. Some worked, most
didn't. I was searching (still am) for an abstract language to call my
own. My more recent non-representational work has a continuity and coherence
that was lacking earlier. Even this, though, can by divided into particular
"styles" or "subjects". Again however, as with the
figurative work, there can be traced, through the abstract work from old
to new, common links.
Most of my abstract work is realised in a fairly structured and reasonably logical way. Jackson Pollock-style freeform abstraction, whilst it may provide a suitable background for an unfinished painting, is not a format I feel comfortable with. This is because my paintings have a "subject matter". Many of the pieces I see as "entities", or at least containing a spiritual element. Many of these works are investigations into colour. Whether the piece is a single monochrome painting, or a series comprising of many coloured canvases, these works are attempts at representing the nature or personality of a particular colour, and its relationship to other colours or hues. Other paintings have to do with an involvement of the surface. To create disturbance in the otherwise flatness of the canvas, I quite often use buttons or beads, or thick blobs of paint. I use circles or dots as highlights and quite often excentuate these points by using 3D objects like buttons. These paintings are often quite small, and I see them as a different family of my abstract work.
This series of work was painted between 1989-94. Obviously it looks completely different from my other stuff, but I have no problem with the fact that this body of work appears so diametrically opposed. To me, there are resonances that link this work to all my other output. Besides, the model of an artist who works in one particular style only, has been questioned since the experiments of Picasso and Duchamp. Two artists (again, German men), made me understand this mix and match work ethic more than any others. They are Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke. Both use mixed media, ranging from abstraction, photographic imagery, the use of objects and sculpture, to create coherent artistic statements. Damien Hirst is a prime exponent of a contemporary artist who uses diversity as a central tenet of his work.
Another artist who had an influence on this body of work is Rachel Whiteread. At this time, Rachel had the studio next door to mine, and I watched her meteoric rise from complete unknown to art superstar first hand. She impressed me with her drive. Few artists work as hard, or are as seriously involved with their work as she is. Whiteread's work is sober, grown-up and serious. My work was (pre this series) frivolous, childlike and crazy. Although she is a few years younger than me, her total artistic vision was much more complete than mine. She understood the zeitgeist, and had the quality of work plus the shrewd business acumen to exploit it fully. That's why she is the success that she is. She made me realise that I had to plan my work in a much more ordered way, and to create a body of work that was more tightly focused and professional. That's how the the photo realist paintings came about. Although I no longer paint in such a manner, her wisdom and work ethic remains with me.
Initially, this series went under the group name "GREEN ENVIRONMENTALS" - a somewhat awkward pun. Later, I named the paintings with individual titles, but for convenience sake kept the G.E. banner. Initially, I didn't sit down and think "What can I create that's smart, cool and has a contemporary vibe? Oh I know, I'll paint tunnels in a photo-realist style - that will have a (post) modern agenda". No, the process was more organic than that. I had taken most of the photos of the tunnels about six years previously. Also, just before the G.E. series, I had worked on a group of small green and blue paintings on card. The subject matter was ostensibly about the corner of a room, ceiling or floor, and the perspective involved. However there were various odd things going on and the final result was half abstract, half realistic. The tunnel paintings were a natural follow-on to that work, which has to be photographed before I can put it on the website.
This work is about alienation and loneliness, but there is, I believe, also a serenity and beauty about them. Using variations of the colour green imbues them with an eerie, unsettling quality. The first 3 or 4 that I painted in this series were pretty rough and fairly simple, but by the fifth, I felt more competant and the work became more detailed. After 9 of these, I embarked on a huge diptych called "Yin Yang". This painting took ages to complete, especially as I took many months out to work on other less monumental pieces. I exhibited "Yin Yang" and some of the other tunnel paintings in 1994. I stopped painting in a photo-realist style after that. This was because I felt that I had said as much as I wanted to in that format.
As always, there are other contemporary artists working in a similar agenda. Paul Winstanley, a British artist, is one such. He works in a photo-realist style, and his subject matter is interiors (offices, corridors, and yes, tunnels!), and he has achieved much exposure. When I started this work, I did not realise that Winstanley was exploring similar themes. When he started getting successful, the last thing I wanted to be was to be accused of plagiarism, so I started thinking about what I should be doing next. Besides, I had by this time become frankly bored of working in such a rigid format - I just wasn't having any fun painting any more; I wasn't experimenting anymore. Having fun was one of the main reasons I started being an artist in the first place. In my opinion, there is no point working in a photo-realist format if there is something wrong with it; the image has to look exactly like what it is meant to be, otherwise the illusion is spoiled. That meant that to get it to look right (to the best of my abilities) meant a lot of concentration, which could get tiring and also tiresome, so I decided enough was enough. In retrospect, I think this body of work is strong and powerful, and it taught me much about the process of painting. I'm very proud of them but I couldn't imagine painting similar works in the near future. However, I still needed to work in a photographic format, so I built a darkroom in my studio. Which is now demolished, because I've moved studios. But! I now have my Fuji F10. Euro digital camera of the year 2005 and it is truly stunning. I love it and I'm seriously thinking do I need my old Canon AE1 SLR? which brings me onto ----->
I've always been fascinated by photography and have had use of a camera from a very young age. My Dad, took (and still takes) loads of prints and slides, and he had a black & white darkroom outfit, so I probably got the bug from him. 1979 was the year that I started to take my photography more seriously. This was when I started my foundation year at Plymouth College of Art. There I had the use of a manual Asahi Pentax SLR camera, and a b/w darkroom, and the time to experiment. In 1981, I bought a Canon AE1 SLR in Hong Kong, which is the camera I still use today, and then in early 1995, I built a colour darkroom in my studio. 1999 saw the arrival of a Minolta slide scanner, which meant that (along with my Mac) I could make digital images of my paintings - and therefore the opportunity to create this website.
Taking photographs is easy - just point and click - but taking shots that are interesting is another matter. I have thousands of negs and slides, but only a very few of those am I really pleased with. As with my painting, my photographic output can also be put into various distinct catergories. I've listed these as ABSTRACT, (and again, like the paintings there are variations of what might be construed as abstraction). BLACK & WHITE is pretty straight forward - likewise COLOUR. These are photographs of the world as I see it around me. There is a section labelled ANGELS, which is of a series of photos I did of some plaster-of-paris model angels. And then there is a area called PORTRAITS, which will mostly be of me, not that I'm particularly narcissistic, but because I'm the nearest and cheapest model around!
As an update and as I mentioned above I now have an amazing digital camera made by Fuji. It is so easy to use and to input the shots straight into the computer. My Minolta slide scanner will be probably only used for pre F10 era shots. It really is an incredible little machine. I luv it.
This section initially started (when I first put the website online,
7th october 2000) as a filler section with little content. It has since
developed into the area that is visited most of all the sections in
my website, apart from the homepage. This
is due mainly to "This
is Planet Earth" "This is Planet Earth" is a digital
artwork and is very big (more than 10mb!!). It comprises of hundreds
of animated gifs of Earth globes spinning around - all of them different.
In fact, this collection is almost certainly the largest of its type
on the internet. Many people searching for these popular gifs end up
at this page to find their
ideal animation for ther webpages. These gifs are royalty free and can
be copied and used by anyone. I hope that the visitors who find this
entry portal page will then
go on to look at the rest of the website and my non-digital (analogue?)
work - ie: the paintings and photography.
As should the pages of "a journey". A digital step-by-step extravaganza which uses found animated gifs, photos and made of pics and put together in a sprawling art adventure. This project starts at step 1 and has continued up to step 200 and beyond.
is also another page of animated gif art experiments called Webstuff.
This shows the first tinkerings I tried using animated gifs which I
had manipulated to create something else entirely. From this page came
"a journey" and
"This is Planet Earth".
you are interested in purchasing my work click
here, or please contact me.
notice: All images and text on this website are protected by copyright.
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of artist. Thank you. © Justin Bailey • ahumanbeing.com