Keith Bailey

Emperors on Ice, 2017. oil on canvas, 77 x 52 cm.

Describe your art making practice.

I work with oil and acrylic paint, brushing, layering, spraying, scraping ‘building’ works on canvas and paper. Most of my practice is abstract, but also incorporates some symbolism as narrative and parody.

When, how and why did you get into it?

Following retirement from a public service career I immersed myself in my true passions – art, photography, travel and voluntary community education. As a volunteer guide at the National Gallery of Australia I share my passions for art with the broader community. I have the privilege of exploring, gaining knowledge and talking about one of the greatest art collections in Australia.

What ideas do you explore through your art?

My ideas grow from my passions for travel and photography and my background in geography, landscape design and developing and implementing environmental programs. My artwork responds to regional and global social and environmental issues and events. Much of my painting is colour emphatic referencing fauvism and modernism, impressionism and abstract expressionism. I tend to incorporate elements of structural design as emphasis and counterpoint to free-flowing form. I’m continually exploring the tensions between chaos and order, and abstraction and literalism.

Who/what influences you as an artist?

I’m particularly interested in commenting on global warming, climate change, landscape change, habitat and vulnerable species loss due to human impact. Through my guiding work at the NGA I have the opportunity to learn about, understand and discuss the widely diverse art genres, techniques, backgrounds and influences that are part of the art spectrum. Observations and research of the NGA’s collection informs my own practice.

Of what are you proudest so far?

My current exhibition, Skating on Thin Ice at M16 Artspace, is my first to bring together photography and painting. This exhibition draws on my trip to Antarctica, the most extraordinary landscape and environment I have so far experienced.

What are your plans for the future?

I continually develop ideas for painting and expressing my responses to experiences and issues of potential impact to the planet and its environment and inhabitants. I plan to continue expressing my ideas through paint on canvas and paper, while developing an interest in other media such as printmaking.

What about the local scene would you change?

As an emerging artist I find the Canberra scene extraordinarily supportive and encouraging. This is in no small way due to venues with a community focus such as M16 Artspace. The people at M16 are wonderfully professional and helpful and the organisation, which essentially runs on the ‘smell of an oily paintbrush’, hosts and manages a diverse program of exhibitions and community access activities. Even though the Artspace manages to attract sponsors and is innovative at sourcing limited funding, my only suggestion for change to the local scene would be for venues with a community focus to have increased continuing and reliable funding.

What are your upcoming exhibitions?

My current exhibition is titled Skating on Thin Ice and is on at M16 Artspace from Thursday July 6 to Sunday July 23. The works reference the fragility of the Antarctic environment and potential impacts of massive ice melt due to global warming not only on the species that live there, but also on the lives and environments of people living thousands of kilometres distant.

Following this exhibition I’m developing a series of oil on canvas paintings on the theme of ‘Loss’ to be shown at M16 in March 2018. These works have arisen from a journey to Sabah, Borneo, where the orangutan habitat is under extreme pressure from ever-increasing destruction of natural forest for the production of palm oil.

I’m also keen to explore the threats to the Great Barrier Reef in a work I’m calling ‘Great Barrier Grief’.


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