Opening The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art’s South West Showcase 2018/19, artist Simon Bayliss’s new exhibition, ‘Meditations in an Emergency’, combines rave music and video with slipware ceramics, en plein air landscape painting, and romantic poetry.
The result, which can be seen in a free launch event in The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art from 5pm to 7pm on Wednesday 10 October 2018, reflects the artist’s explorations of rural and queer identity, romanticism and a surreal sense of place.
Now based in St Ives, Simon grew up in East Devon, and his relationship with the landscape and artistic legacy of the South West is a theme that recurs throughout his work. ‘Meditations in an Emergency’, which runs from 11 October to 17 November 2018, features all new work, commissioned by The Gallery as part of South West Showcase 2018/19, a recurring open call platform that began in 2013, showcasing and celebrating contemporary artists from across the South West via the production of two solo exhibitions.
The starting point for the exhibition is a dance track produced by Simon to accompany his new moving image work. The artwork was inspired by his research following the international controversy surrounding the homoerotic video of Russian air cadets dancing to Benny Benassi’s club anthem ‘Satisfaction’. Delving into the phenomenon of uniformed workers creating videos in solidarity with the Russian air cadets, Simon discovered the video subgenre of air force marshals dancing on runways, and became fascinated by the tension between the often flamboyant dance and the dancer’s military environment.
Building on the artist’s previous work with found footage in his video ‘Kangaroo Beach’, recently shown as part of a solo exhibition at Exeter Phoenix, Simon has filmed some of the new material, featuring Cornish rapper Passman dancing in a unicorn mask, on a decommissioned military airbase in Cornwall.
The exhibition also features ceramics (including large, crimped ‘pasty paintings’), poetry and watercolour painting, which builds on Simon’s growing body of work within craft-based traditions.
Simon said: “This South West Showcase commision has supported me to produce the most ambitious body of work I’ve made so far, developing elements that I began in past exhibitions for Eastside Projects, in Birmingham, and at Exeter Phoenix. Although the Exeter Phoenix exhibition featured moving image, ceramics and poem paintings, each were presented in separate rooms, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to combine these different aspects of my practice in one space.”
“I trained as a painter, and produced dance music on the side. In recent years my practice has expanded to encompass different mediums, including music production, pottery and poetry. I’m committed to developing a high skill level in the mediums I am using, which in most cases means learning through tradition or craft, whether that’s in pottery, poetry or dance music.”
‘Meditations in an Emergency’ takes its title from a poem by Frank O’Hara, written as prose-like musings on the subject of cultural identity and romantic heartbreak, spiked with landscape imagery. The word meditations (plural), suggests a gathering of thoughts or expressions on a subject, while emergency sets the pace.
Leah Harris, Exhibitions Coordinator for The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, said: “The South West Showcase selection panel were impressed by Simon’s commitment to developing traditional skills, including pottery, alongside his more contemporary influences from rave and dance culture. We wanted to offer a platform to help Simon achieve his ambition of bringing together the previously disparate elements of his practice into something ambitious and coherent. Seeing Simon develop new work at such a diverse scale for The Gallery has been incredibly rewarding. This is the next step in the evolution of an exciting artist whose work deserves a much wider audience.”
Simon’s recent solo exhibitions include ‘Kangaroo Beach’, 2018, Exeter Phoenix, ‘Ceramic Pasty Paintings’, 2017, Tate St Ives café in conjunction with ‘That Continuous Thing: Artists and the Ceramics Studio’; and ‘Frantic Romantic’, 2016, Eastside Projects, Birmingham. Simon also makes and performs dance music as Splash Addict, with Susie Green. Recent performances include Jerwood Visual Arts, London; Fierce Festival, Birmingham, 2017. He is also one half of artist duo BLISS, with Lucy Stein. Their recent activity includes ‘REGRESSION’, 2016, solo exhibition at Kingsgate Workshops, London, and the monthly radio show ‘Squirming the Worm’, NTS, 2014-17. Simon is the founding director of Artist Tea Towel Company, which commissions contemporary artists to produce artworks for tea towels.