‘HIX Award Feature: Sam Bailey’
Published by HIX Magazine
Written on the occasion of the 2017 HIX Award, the article spotlighted the annual award prize and previous winners, with an interview and profile on the 2017 recipient, Sam Bailey.
The feature paid attention to his reflections on memory and nostalgia, and how this has come to influence both his subject matter and painterly technique.
“Graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2017, Bailey’s works are a series of mnemonic whispers. Layering watercolour and gouache on archival newsprint, anonymous and lurid apparitions are laced with a subtle melancholy. Both aesthetic and haptic, the material substance of his work echoes the DIY ethos of his subjects: images of activists from various protests in the 1980s, such as the Women Peace Camps of Greenham Common, the subject of his winning piece, Smoker 3 (2017). A nauseous blend of mustard green and hollow grey, the self-effacing figure oscillates from recognition to neglect; the loose splatters and stains evoking a warm and quasi-nostalgic dotage.
The materiality of his portraits—Baconesque phantoms that beleaguer the histories of protest, media and affect—are indeed concerned with questions of time and physicality during the crossover from Fordist to Post-Fordist modes of production and consumption. However, their very inability to be grasped—like memories themselves—reflects the cognitive dissonance of an age; stretched from nostalgia to futurism, paranoia to anaesthesia.
Whilst Smoker 3 exudes a plaintive disposition, Bailey’s works equally turn to the fiercely existential. Whilst his palette seamlessly shifts from darker hues to the ethereal, his characters’ consistent lack of a graspable identity is tantamount. His work, Beanie Test (2018), reminiscent of the supreme alienation one would find in Giacometti’s Annette (1952), the mix of muddied flesh and vertiginous black souls a rapturous expression of the modern self.”