Galerie Bart proudly presents ‘Rambling in Arcadia’, a joint exhibition by Lawrence James Bailey and Sjaak Kooij. Lawrence sets out into his what’s idea of paradise – the natural environment outside the city – whenever he can. It’s a place where he has to rely on his wits and is confronted with himself. He draws on his experiences and photographic studies to figuratively and literally translate the transformation he undergoes in the portraits he makes of friends. Sjaak’s paintings are of scenes you might come across in the gardens of the classical world or a feverish dream. In his self-portrait, Sjaak is Pan and introduces you to his Arcadia: a poetic but indefinable place.
Lawrence James Bailey (1976, UK) has always drawn and embroidered no-man’s landscapes: edgelands. But he has chosen a new direction for this exhibition. The people whose presence he previously only suggested by what they left behind have now become the explicit subjects of his work. Lawrence machine-embroiders his textile art works, using it like a tattoo artist’s needle, constantly moving back and forth to thicken lines and fill in areas of colour. In preparation, Lawrence retreated into the isolation of Amsterdam’s hinterland – where he can become a different person to his urban self – a number of times. He then translated this personal change into portraits of his friends and acquaintances. They are not depicted realistically but as the personification of religious or mythical figures and often behind some form of mask. In this way, the subjects of his work are transformed or transform themselves. Lawrence says this transformation is the crux of being alone in nature. Are you still the same person in this different, ‘more natural’ environment?
Although no stranger to portrait painting, Sjaak Kooij (1982, NL) has opted for a different approach in this exhibition too. In his ‘Amongst Gods and Ghosts’ series, Sjaak references mythical individuals, famous historical figures and invisible people on the street. He combines aspects of the classical world with street musicians, street vendors and the homeless via subtle references and elements and by giving his subjects self-conceived iconographic attributes. Sjaak plays with colour and focus to lead your eyes across the canvas. The detailed facial expressions and gazes of his subjects contrast with the sketch-like background, encouraging you to immerse yourself in the individuals depicted and start to imagine how they feel. Working with oil paint and intense acrylic colours to add neon accents to dark backgrounds, Sjaak forms animals and shapes that leap out from the canvas here and there. By placing his subjects and each of their references against dusky, dreamy backdrops, Sjaak creates the conditions for new, timeless stories, ready to be told by a modern Theocritus or Homer.