Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Mike Tilling
Arts Correspondent
9:45 AM 16th November 2020

Christian Alexander Bailey - Tree Sparrow

We go to Art, in all its many forms, to fulfil a number of our needs. Some use it as an educational medium, perhaps in order to learn more about the world, while the aesthete simply wants to wallow in line and colour. For others, music, drama and the visual arts offer an emotional life we could never experience in our quotidian existence.

Christian Alexander Bailey with <i>Tree Sparrow</i>
Christian Alexander Bailey with Tree Sparrow
One of my preferred uses is to have my eyes opened by an artist who can portray the familiar in a way that I had never seen before – surprising me with the everyday.

Such an artist is Christian Alexander Bailey whose pen and ink rendition of Tree Sparrow won the Purchase Prize at the New Light Exhibition.

First of all, it is exquisitely rendered with plumage executed in astonishing detail. Beyond the surface appearance, we see an animal that is proud, perhaps even arrogant with just a suggestion of the raptor about it. After all, birds do have the dinosaur in their ancestry.

Perhaps I am going a little far down the track of anthropomorphism here, but Tree Sparrow does not depict the kind of ‘aaah, isn’t it cute’ creature that we so often condescend to. The physical beauty is undeniably there, but so too is the gimlet eye.

Bailey is well-known for his conservation work. He was recently seen at the Royal Hall, Harrogate in conversation with Chris Packham and Steve Backshall. They were discussing endangered species.

Originally born in Harrogate, Bailey has lived across the UK, but settled eventually back in the Yorkshire spa town. His father was an amateur painter and encouraged his son to draw and paint.

When asked about influences, Bailey responds with an answer that makes the question seem crass: ‘nature and being outside’ are the non-human inspirations while artists I have never heard of, such as David Downton and Robert Franklin Booth, particularly the latter, have impacted on Bailey’s concern for detail.

More recently, Bailey has been experimenting with colour and sent a recondite entry to the Being Human exhibition in London. The piece, ‘Brick’ seems to be a response to the situation we find ourselves in with Coronavirus pandemic.

This is the last of the pieces about individual artists who have exhibited their work in the New Light Exhibition. As the rankest of amateurs myself, when I visited the exhibition in the Scarborough Art Gallery, I was hoping to find at least one entrant as inept as I. If there was no encouragement to be had from that direction, I can feel at least that I have been exposed to the work of some immensely talented people.

Covid 19 allowing, don’t miss out when the exhibition tours somewhere near you.

New Light is an organisation that exists in order to ‘celebrate and promote Northern art by supporting both well-known and emerging artists’ (introduction to the Scarborough Art Gallery catalogue). The Prize Exhibition runs once every two years and offers substantial awards, both in cash and prestige, to five of the exhibitors. In addition, public bodies and charities may borrow works of art from New Light at no cost.