Bailey is a magical realist who rewrites art history with her quirky, whimsical and all alluring female portraits that in their dreaminess ooze silent power.
an article written by Milia Wallenius
ARTICULATE #29 | OCTOBER 2021
Billie Bailey (b. 1974) is a magical realist who rewrites art history with her quirky, whimsical and all alluring female portraits and landscapes that in their sensuality and dreaminess ooze silent power.
“Old and modern, pretty, and scary, deep, and superficial, bright colors and darkness, real but exaggerated. Something in between it all. Not too much but just right adding a little bit of whimsical fun and moody chaos. Burning the bakery while eating the cakes.”
Billie Bailey’s description of her own work is as witty, amusing, disordered and dark as her art. A bundle of juxtaposed emotions and impressions flung at you with such force that you can only stand mesmerized while trying to figure out what just hit you.
Bailey was born in Australia and is currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark. She has always been fond of painting and drawing, and her medium of choice is oil paint. This she uses to create figurative paintings, often depicting female figures, children or landscapes, sometimes in full sometimes through intimate details.
“Basically, I really love to paint and draw. I am awed with gratitude over the basic ability to create a whole world of emotions in a bi-dimensional space by just gradating color with nothing but my own hands and a few materials”, she explains.
Bailey uses art as a means to channel her emotions. For her artistic practice is both meditative and a safe space for trying to understand things that are difficult to explain. As a result, her creative process is rather intuitive, and the oil paintings are often the product of a rather spontaneous working process.
Bailey likes a challenge. In recent years she has broken with her long-lasting monogamous relationship with oil paints in order to try out stippling, making her one of the few stippling artists in Denmark.
Stippling is an old technique where a pattern is created by applying small dots of a single color in varying intensities. The final image is created in the interplay between tiny dots of colored ink and the background. It is a technique that requires a steady hand, a good sense for detail and a great deal of concentration.
Stippling is carried out with pen and ink and once a dot is drawn it cannot be changed. This makes stippling a far less forgiving technique in comparison with oil paints, which can be reworked over and over again.
With stippling there is no space for spontaneity, but rather the need for a precise pre-thought plan carried out to precision. It is a very delicate job, and one which truly shows the artist’s skill and value of great workmanship.
Bailey’s works are as much about the subject matter as they are about the craft. Her appreciation for crafting techniques and handicraft can be traced back to her childhood years, when she spent a lot of time among exquisite artifacts and old paintings at her grandfather’s antique store. This has also had a major impact on Bailey’s work both when it comes to her use of materials and her artistic style.
Cut-out canvases, painted objects, disoriented bodies, and sculpted artefacts all serve as examples of Bailey’s materiality, which goes beyond the skillful processing of paint and ink.
Bailey’s fascination with art history and old masters such as Rembrandt is evident in her work and her art carries clear resemblance to 17th and 18th century painting, portraiture, and the tradition of painting miniatures.
However, the quirky details, and small twisted elements in her work dust off the male dominated art history and bring forth a playful and fun contemporary femininity with a strong and powerful presence.
In Bailey’s portraits women are sensual, feminine, and delicate, yet dark, alluring, and provocative. Bailey uses her color palette where light and pinkish colors blend into pastels, cold blues, and shades of purple to create tensions between that which is dreamy and delicious and that which is bleak and unsettling.
The result is a whirlwind of different impressions creating a unique universe where connections between traditional and contemporary, past and present, new and old, fairytale and ghost story are made.
Bailey’s work offers us as much a trip down the rabbit hole as a mirror in which to reflect, be it on history or on our contemporary selves. It is art history high on sugar – fun, whimsical, and ironic. Any encounter with Baily’s work will for sure leave you with a smile on your face, probably stunned too, maybe unsettled, but most definitely curious for more.
This article about Billie Bailey takes part of the 29th magazine, ARTICULATE #29. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below.