Artist Q&A with Keith Bayliss




Keith Bayliss is a visual artist based in Swansea. For over a decade he worked in a psychiatric hospital, followed by a role as Community Arts Officer based at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery. Since 1991, as a freelance artist and arts educator, he has taught at all levels from primary school to adult learner. Throughout this time he has continued to make art, collaborate widely with poets and writers, while regularly exhibiting, facilitating and curating projects in Wales and Europe.




The present situation has not altered the making of art for me. It has sharpened its focus.”

R&J: What are you working on at the moment?


KB:

At the moment I am producing drawings. Drawing is nearly always my starting point and in this case, ink on paper. One morning, in drawing a small female figure the name Proserpina came to mind. Proserpina or Persephone was a goddess, daughter of Demeter. She is forced to spend half of the year in the Underworld, giving us Autumn and Winter and half of the year on Earth giving us Spring and Summer. She is a goddess of Life, living half the year in a place of sadness. But my Proserpina spends her time giving comfort to the Souls in that dark place. How this figure became Proserpina is a mystery to me, but really she is a continuation of subject matter I have been working on for years. So many times I realise after the event where I am going!


Proserpina sketches (work in progress) 2021



R&J:

Are you an artist who prefers solitude or togetherness to thrive? Or do you need a balance of both? (Have events over the past year and ongoing situation affected you? How have you remained positive?)


KB:

Making art is for me a solitary business. It has to be. But my art is about small characters – others. A social drama. But I cannot escape the ‘togetherness’ in your question. I love to collaborate on a show, it adds a richness to the experience. In life and art there are others, but they are a small group. As far as ‘the past year’ is concerned, it cannot help but affect me. It has made me realise how precious the small and diminishing group of people are for me.


The present situation has not altered the making of art for me. It has sharpened its focus.



With collaborators musician Joe Bayliss & poet David Thomas at a talk for his exhibition Swsana & The Elders, Oriel Q in Narberth, 2019
With collaborators Joe Bayliss & David Thomas

R&J:

What are you reading, listening to, watching right now/recently?

KB:

I have just run upstairs to pick up the two books at the side of the bed. One is The Complete Essays of Michel De Montaigne. What odd collection of thoughts, memories and opinions. Among many essays are one ‘On Idleness’. One ‘On Smells’. One ‘On How we weep and laugh at the same things’. There is also one on the Usefulness of thumbs!!! Not an easy read, but strangely compelling.


The other book is a history book. A Cheese Monger’s History of the British Isles by Ted Palmer. A wonderfully informative publication marrying two subjects close to my heart and stomach.




R&J:

Do you have a favourite project or piece of work of your own, or ideas you return to?

KB:

My “project”, I suppose, is to consider and it seems reconsider, a limited theme. The limited theme can be used as a criticism – I use it on me quite often! But I make images of “characters” they may be the same characters, like actors they turn up in a different guise. But I re-visit them and like the Proserpina “project” they explore or respond to some things working inside me or working on me. Chagall was criticised by one colour supplement review during his great London Retrospective for having a limited subject matter which he revisited over and over. Er…Well yes!


Yo lo fi/Fe welais i/I saw this (2019) at MoMa Machynlleth


R&J:

Are there peers or an artist who you particularly identify with or whose work you relate to? What would be your dream collaboration?


KB:

Oh dear! What a question! Where do I start! Best not to. If I could, I would love to drop in on Goya at his Deaf Man’s House and have a glass of Manzanilla with him. I would take him a bottle and hope he would allow me to stay awhile and view his Black Paintings. And what of a ‘dream collaboration’? I think I have in retrospect had a few, but to revisit them here would create more of an essay, than an answer. But as I write this, Ernest Zobole came to mind. I tried to include him in the Dreaming Awake exhibition, but it was at the end part of his life and he had just lost his wife. His replies to me were very kind and courteous. I was unaware of his situation. But earlier I did manage to include him in the Intimate Portraits exhibition. I said hello to him at the opening, but never got to know him. If Zobole were here now I would love to do a small show with him. I have loved his work since I was a young man.


Ernest Zobole, 'Chair and Dog in a Room', 1967