Exploring the Metaphorical Habitat of the Nomad

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Exploring the Metaphorical Habitat of the Nomad

Lawrence James Bailey


Who influences you graphically?

Gilbert and George’s charcoal drawings from early 1970’s, such as ‘The Nature of Our Looking’, are a big influence to me. They play with ideas of the Romantic landscape, the role of artists and the material of art objects (they refer to their drawings as Charcoal-on-Paper Sculptures).  Drawings which exploit the contrast between light and dark as these charcoal-on-paper sculptures do is a technique especially effective for drawing architecture and Antonio Sant’Elia’s architectural sketches are great in this respect. His use of light and shadow to depict imaginary structures of sharp angles and brutal geometric forms are something which i have in the back of my mind when i’m working. I like how his vision of the built environment is something which seems both threatening and optimistic. I always think that one persons Utopia can easily be someone else’s Dystopia. And there are a lot of younger generation artists whose work i connect to. One such artist is Pat Perry who I came across on a social media platform. His mind filters the sights and experiences of a North America itinerant and translates them with a mystical flavor into wall murals and line drawings on paper.

Urban decay, suburban ambiguities, rural retreats and poverty of the so-called developed world are also subjects I like to examine in my work, yet I always seem drawn to expressing my themes through depictions of the built environment or through historical architecture.

In what way does your surrounding environment dictate and articulate your work?

I grew up in the suburbs of a declining industrial town in the centre of England. On one side there were derelict factories and open waste-ground, on the other side there were fields, farms and the start of the Peak District National Park. My current home is in the center of a European capital city. My mind is always torn between being in a metropolitan urban area dreaming of space and solitude or being in a remote area longing for the concrete and spectacle of the man-made environment. The landscapes I draw are caught between these two things as well.

Does architecture play a specific role your images?  

Where-ever I go i like to seek out the twilight zone of suburbs, industrial zones, gardens and retail parks. These are the areas of wooden huts, prefabricated depots, portable containers and featureless open spaces. It is specifically this type of anonymous architecture which for me represents the metaphorical habitat of the nomad, the rebel, the vagrant… the outsider… places of no-man’s-land and urban wilderness where modern day Romanticism can thrive. So in a way I use architecture to  examine feelings of uprootedness, social isolation, of being neither here-nor-there.

How and to what effect do you chose to incorporate colour in certain images?

For a long time I made the decision to only use black and white. For me colour was a distraction for both the artist and viewer. But one day I saw colored shipping containers against a grey concrete landscape and I loved their bold artificial appearance. So i started to draw on colored paper rather than using paint or colored inks. After that my use of colored backgrounds took hold in my imagination and I started to use colour more freely to suggest times of day, weather conditions or artificial light. Now when starting a work I start with in an image in my mind and decide if any colour is necessary to benefit a sense of time or place in the work.

What dictates your colour palette?  

I love bright fluorescent colours against dark or neutral earthy tones. It’s a colour scheme which comes from studying illuminated buildings or brightly colored utilitarian structures such as those found in ports or farms. It is a palette which recalls wondering around unknown areas at night, not quite knowing where you are, or if you are supposed to be there. I’m just about to start a series of large scale drawings, so to keep things simple i’ll just work in black and white until I feel colour is needed to take them somewhere new.


A visual artist by profession, Lawrence James Bailey’s work explores connections between landscape, Romanticism, Libertarianism, alienation and the creative process. Born in 1976 in the industrial town of Stoke-on-Trent in the UK, he moved to the Netherlands to follow a residency at De Ateliers, an independent artists’ institute located in Amsterdam, the city where he has now chosen to base himself.’



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