Beezy Bailey on his latest ‘creative blood transfusion’

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Painting with American-based rock singer Dave Matthews was like a “creative blood transfusion”, says local artist Beezy Bailey of their collaborations on show at a Cape Town art gallery.

Bailey and Matthews have known each other for almost three decades. Their latest effort Itica Pritica opened late last week at the Everard Read gallery at the V&A Waterfront.

Beezy Bailey in his art studio. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Beezy Bailey in his art studio. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Matthews was not at the Cape Town opening but was in New York for the show, where the two artists created the paintings.

Matthews was born in South African but started his band in the United States. He has sold at least 30 million albums globally.

Bailey said they worked on the paintings in Brooklyn, New York.

“He’s a friend. He arrived to stay at this house about 15 years ago. He’s one of my brother Prospero’s best friends,” said Bailey of Matthews.

He said Matthews was the third musician he has worked with to date.

“It’s a bit of a lonely thing making these paintings. When I can work with someone who can jam with me, I love it. It’s got nothing to do with what’s out there but what we want to make,” said Bailey.

“When we work, it’s like playing music together. In all three cases, the artists all studied at art school but went into music. The first musician I worked with was David Bowie. The second was Brian Eno. The third was Dave Matthews.”

Bailey added: “I realised that I wanted to be a rock star and they wanted to be painters. It was a perfect marriage.”

Matthews said: “For me, painting with Beezy was very new territory. He had worked with musicians before, so I knew I was in good hands and good company, but the prospect was still unnerving.”

He said the two “have known each other for nearly three decades”.

“We have wanted to do something creative together for much of that time but, until recently, have not managed to come together. When at last we began working together, I leaned heavily on Beezy’s confidence and experience and gained courage from his exuberance,” said Matthews.

“We chased different images. Some went too far, some not far enough but the experience was therapeutic on one level and transformative on another.”
Bailey recalled working with Bowie in 1995, describing the prolific musician and actor as a “creative juggernaut”.

“Bowie was in his late 40s and was doing his Outside album at the same time. His energy was demonic. It was extraordinary,” said Bailey.

“He was acting as (artist Andy) Warhol in a movie and painting 50 paintings with me. All at the same time during a two-week period.”

“Bowie said when we enter the studio we leave our egos at the door. It’s so far removed from the rock star glitz. It’s so much to do with the process, the real thing about making marks (on a canvas).”

Bailey said he was working with Eno on a show that merged “paintings with sound”.

“I’ve collaborated with Eno for the last four years. We are looking at putting together sound paintings. You would stand under a dome that would be a specific sound for that painting,” said Bailey.

“To work with this extraordinary man, who is utterly humble, is a great privileged.”

Bailey currently has show of his landscape paintings at the Everard Read gallery in Johannesburg. He also launched a documentary film about his career and life this month. Itica Pritica runs until June 5.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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