BAEL – "She"

Gallery Nomad will show the works of the English artist BAEL in the solo show "SHE" in Berlin. To learn more about the artist and his background we asked him some questions.

Nomad: You are a self-taught artist. Was it difficult to advance your career without a classic art education? Please tell me why you decided to work as an artist.

BAEL: Drawing was my escape as a child, I was extremely shy, and so the praise I received for my drawings started my love of art and my determination to create.  After I left school at 16, I briefly attended Art College for 2 years (dropping out twice), but I never progressed to university. The reason I was disappointed with Art College, was because they did not teach even basic techniques of drawing or painting. So I believe that my style is a direct result of teaching myself. 

In 2009, I decided to start sending my work to galleries for consideration. I must have sent hundreds of emails over the years and did not receive any responses.  Eventually, I was contacted by Signal Gallery in London, they took me on when I was a completely unknown artist from the North of England, with no real art education. They showed one of my works in a group show and the piece had a lot of interest and sold quickly, they eventually gave me 3 solo exhibitions in the 4 years I was represented by them.

Nomad: There are intense emotions captured within and communicated by the contorted figures featured in your work. What sorts of things inspire you and what do you want your audience to take away from your work?
BAEL: It is never easy to explain ‘why’ you make the decisions you make as an artist, but I believe that anyone creating art should make work that pleases themselves and speaks about their own human condition. I tend to depict figures alone without any indication of a setting or a context, I am sure anyone who has an interest in psychology, would say that my work deals with an existential sense of loneliness, and although I never create anything with a definite meaning, my own experience informs my subconscious decisions and loneliness is an emotion I am familiar with, because even if our life is filled with friends, family and colleagues, a human can only experience the world from their own perspective and sometimes our most profound and important moments occur when we are alone.
Nomad: The figures in your work range from the realistic to the abstract and even include, what appears to be, some nods to comic book super heroes and villains. Tell me more about how and why you depict varying interpretations on the human form.
BAEL: That is true, my work has covered traditional nudes, abstract interpretations of faces/heads and figures that could be described as humanoid. This is my way of exploring the different possibilities of depicting the human form without repeating myself and trying to create something unique.
Nomad: It looks like you enjoy bringing a sense of beauty out of darker imagery. What influences your aesthetics and in which kind of works are you interested in creating?
BAEL: My favourite artists have always been the ones that sought beauty in the dark aspects of life, not just in art, I am attracted to that same aesthetic in music, books, film etc. I do not believe that we can really understand ourselves as people, without exploring the parts of life that can unsettle us.

Nomad: Where you have two subjects on a canvas, they are embracing one another and often on the verge of a kiss, tell me about your decision to depict this specific moment.
BAEL: I believe that description is of a specific painting from 2013 called ‘USUS’. In the last year, that particular painting has taken on a greater significance than I had originally intended. The male figure is my friend Luke Lavelle, who modelled for many of my paintings and sadly committed suicide last year. The inspiration for the pose was the idea of a man and a women physically communicating in a very primal way, with the male figure clearly needing some kind of affection/attention from the female figure who appears sedate and indifferent to him.
Nomad: Your canvases tend to have a neutral background and are punctuated by evocative blues, reds and blacks.  What do these colours and the resulting contrast between neutral and vivid colours help you express?
BAEL: My colour palette has stemmed from my use of strong lines, the neutral colours allow the lines of the figure/s to have more visual impact, as they are not competing with bold colours. The reds and blues are then used to accentuate limbs and joints and add a more human feeling of blood and veins.
Nomad: The female subjects depicted in your work are portrayed with an inherent strength but also an air of dismissiveness or coldness. In many cases, the female subjects are looking away from the audience.  Through these specific choices, what are you trying to communicate to your audience?
BAEL: I have always tried to avoid overtly sexualising the subjects in my work, I prefer poses that suggest, someone lost within their own thought, rather than responding to a viewer or something external.

Nomad: In which ways has your artwork evolved over the past years?
BAEL: My first exhibition ‘Die Tiere’ was made up of artworks that explored the animal aspect of human emotion, as a result the figures were quite monstrous and haunting. My second body of work was ‘Rokoko’, those pieces were inspired by ideas of decadence and Greek mythology. My works from the last 3 years have been more traditional and concentrate on figure studies inspired by expressionist artists    

Nomad: What are your plans and goals for the next future?
BAEL: My immediate plans are to begin a new series of works that I abandoned in 2016. As I said, my friend and model Luke Lavelle passed away last year and shortly before his death, I had photographed a large number of poses with Luke, that I had planned to turn into a series of connected paintings, after his death I felt unable to use them as material for my work, but I have decided to finally start on them.


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