"I think art and the blues/rock counterculture brings people together, not only musicians but photographers too."
Pauline Bailey: Down Under Artwork
Australian artist Pauline Bailey, says: “I was born in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh and have lived in Gippsland since 1990. I work primarily with acrylics and I often incorporate pastel, charcoal and collage to create paintings which are colourful, lively and rich in texture. I am inspired by my own experiences and observations both past and present and, although I live in the country, I am frequently drawn back to the city for inspiration and to explore the many faces of Melbourne’s urban environment. The streets of Melbourne provide endless source material for me. Some of my favourite subjects include railway stations, dilapidated buildings, pubs, cafés and other structures; some are well known icons but others that are not so familiar are just as interesting to me.
I am very passionate about the local music scene and this is a recurring theme in my work and I also enjoy painting portraits, abstracts and still life. My main influences are Pop Art, realism, street art, and Australian contemporary art. Some of the artists who inspire me are Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, Howard Arkley, Bill Young, Nathan Taylor, Daniel Greene, Jeffrey Smart and Edward Hopper. I have had a number of solo and group exhibitions in Victoria and interstate and I have a Certificate 1V in Visual Arts and Diploma of Arts with credits and distinctions in painting and drawing. In 2017 I collaborated with Kim Volkman to edit and publish his autobiography, “The Devil Won’t Take Charity” and Kim’s second book, “For Those That Dance With The Skeleton.” Pauline’s new book titled “Blues Portrait - A profile of the Australian blues scene” (2019). Forty-six musicians, in their own words, share their thoughts and insights about what motivates them to make music, what connects them, what drives them to perform, and what music means to them. Blues Portrait - A profile of the Australian blues scene is a collection of stories and anecdotes from some of our best-known and loved musicians across the decades, exploring how they have each played an integral part in defining and shaping the broad, rich and diverse blues scene we have in Australia.
How has the music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Music has influenced a great deal of my life; it has inspired me firstly with my artwork which has, in turn, led to me writing a book so it’s been a very interesting journey. Art and music are very much intertwined for me. I’ve been a music fan since the age of ten and I think music, especially the blues, is such a wonderful thing in the way it unites people. I loved the blues from a very early age. Although I wasn’t aware of it being “blues” at the time, I can see now that a lot of the music I listened to when I was young was very much blues-influenced.
How do you describe your artwork? Where does your creative drive come from?
My artwork is quite colourful and textural, and my main focus is urban structures – buildings, live music venues and street scenes around Melbourne. I’m not entirely sure where the creative drive comes from, I just love to create! I’m always working on something, whether it be painting, drawing, photography or writing. I get a great deal of enjoyment from making art and although the book was a completely different medium, I enjoyed it as much as I enjoy painting. To me, it was another way of painting a portrait except using words instead of paint!
"I think the future of the blues is very healthy, we have a lot of up and coming young musicians which is great. The blues community here is very supportive too and there are a number of jams and youth in blues programs, especially here in Melbourne."
How started the thought of Blues Portrait? What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Writing is a new venture for me. I began a project in 2016 with a friend of mine, local Melbourne musician Kim Volkman. I asked him if he had ever thought about writing his autobiography and he was very keen on the idea. He immediately started writing and was very diligent and committed. As he finished each chapter, he would send it through to me for editing and so after pulling all that together into book form along with some photos, we self-published the book, “The Devil Won’t Take Charity” in 2017. It has now almost sold out the first print run. We both enjoyed the process so much which led to a second book, “For Those That Dance With The Skeleton – A Book of Short Stories” which was released earlier this year. Whilst working on those two books I had the idea to ask other musicians if they would be interested in sharing their stories, memories and insights and so I began interviewing people and compiling their stories with a view to putting them into book form. As I got going with the project I had more and more interest and I ended up with forty-six contributors! So the books I did with Kim planted the seed for Blues Portrait.
The people I interviewed were fantastic, very generous with their time and willing to talk about their lives and how they got into music, so that part was very easy. I wanted to include not only blues purists, but also artists who have been influenced by the blues at some point and have gone in a different direction. Some of the contributors didn’t start their careers playing the blues but discovered it later; some started there and went on to develop their own unique style. All of them have been influenced in some way by the blues and interpret the music in their own way, putting their own spin on it, and it shows just how broad the scene is.
Most of the stories in the book were interviews which I conducted either by phone or in person which required transcription but there were a few submissions that were done via email. There are a couple of stand-alone written pieces in there also. I guess the hardest part was transcribing the interviews which can be very time consuming and then of course the process of sending the transcriptions back and forth for any alterations/edits. I wanted the contributors to be 100% happy with their finished piece.
The other hard part was making the decision to stop collecting material and actually get the book finished and published – there are quite a few people I didn’t get the opportunity to interview, so I am now in the process of working on a second volume so that I can hopefully include some of the people I didn’t get around to in the first one. There is a wealth of talent here in Australia!
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What has made you laugh? Photo: Pauline Bailey
Kim Volkman of course, the initial collaboration with him led me on the path to writing. I had seen him perform over the years but we met properly when he purchased one of my paintings. A few years ago I did a series of portraits of some legendary Australian musos who had passed away - Bon Scott, Peter Wells, Ian Rilen, Lobby Loyde and Billy Thorpe. A couple of the paintings were hanging in Pure Pop Records in St Kilda (a record store which was coincidentally run by Bon Scott’s son!) and Kim purchased the Ian Rilen portrait. Kim asked me to do a portrait of him, which I did, and we have been friends ever since.
Another important friend is Barry Walker. I met Baz through a local blues night he was running, and he asked me to paint a backdrop for his new venture, Live at The Bundy. Barry introduced a lot of fresh music to the local area, and I met some wonderful musicians there. During the four years Barry ran the venue almost every artist that performed there signed the backdrop, so it’s quite a historical piece of art now! Some of the conversations I had with people during the interview process made me laugh! I heard lots of funny stories – some made it to print and some didn’t!
How important was the Blues music in your life? How does the Blues affect your mood and inspiration?
Blues music always improves my mood! It’s a very honest form of music and, I think, joyful music. It always makes me feel good. The history of it is very interesting to me too, and I’m always watching docos to learn more about it. My love for the music inspired me to dig deeper into our local scene to get some insights from our musicians here in Australia.
Make an account of the case of the blues in Australia. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?
I think we’re very lucky here in Australia that we have a healthy scene right now! We have so many talented musicians playing regularly at venues and festivals right across Australia. With the book I wanted to capture what is happening right now 2017–2019. At the time of writing every artist interviewed in the book was performing, writing, recording or connected with music in some way.
"My artwork is quite colourful and textural, and my main focus is urban structures – buildings, live music venues and street scenes around Melbourne. I’m not entirely sure where the creative drive comes from, I just love to create! I’m always working on something, whether it be painting, drawing, photography or writing." (Artwork by Pauline Bailey)
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I think what I miss the most is being able to go and see Chris Wilson perform. Chris was the most wonderful singer, performer songwriter and harmonica player and he always delivered 100% with every performance. He had such a presence and was a mighty singer and harmonica player. Sadly Chris passed away in January of this year. He was much-loved and well regarded on the local scene and was so influential; he passed on his knowledge and experience to so many of his peers and also to the many students he taught. I was very fortunate to interview him for the book just nine days before he passed away. I am so grateful to his family for giving me that opportunity. I think the future of the blues is very healthy, we have a lot of up and coming young musicians which is great. The blues community here is very supportive too and there are a number of jams and youth in blues programs, especially here in Melbourne.
What is the impact of Blues & Rock counterculture and art general on the socio-cultural implications?
I think art and the blues/rock counterculture brings people together, not only musicians but photographers too. It was very important to me to include photos in the book to celebrate the many photographers who document the scene. I have met so many like-minded people through my connection with music and I’ve found that there is a real sense of community in the blues scene. People from all walks of life enjoy this music which is a great thing.
Where would you really want to go with a time machine and what memorabilia (books, records) would you put in?
I would love to go back in time to the period in the forties and fifties when Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and others were playing in the clubs. What a magical time that would have been! To visit Chicago back then and go to as many gigs as possible would be a dream. In a time capsule, I would include Chess session recordings, gig posters and live recordings of gigs that were happening at the time. I would also take as many photographs as possible to capture as much of that period of time as I could.
(Artwork by Pauline Bailey)
Comments are closed for this blog post