After spending an afternoon with Andrew Remington Bailey‘s print Zombie-Comic-Hybrid Attraction Disorder, I feel somewhere in between Brad Pitt in Se7en, pouring over books in the library and George Costanza, trying to get to the bottom of something. It’s been something like a Google-aged, over-caffeinated version of that classic Simpsons bit: Bart sits slumped against the wall as various moments replay in his head “From now on the baby sleeps in the crib…iron helps us play…hello Joe!” But in this case, werewolf heads swirl and overlap with 90s cultural references, a blog post from 2007, Andrew Remington Bailey monster-hybrids, philosophy and post modernism.
Bailey is a recent OCAD fine-art graduate, specializing in screen printing and drawing. His work is distinctive in its intricateness and melding of science fiction with high-brow academic literature. Most that know Bailey’s work are probably familiar with his thesis: a body of hyper-colourful and intricate comic book-like prints that brings together a number of allusions, iconography and word play in its exploration of self.
Bailey is in the process of finishing his first complete book project post-OCAD. It’s called Low-Quality Avatars. “It’s a really small comic project with a lot of the same ideas that I was toying around with for my thesis – like with referencing and making allusions to preexisting literature, texts and works and really working with the idea of pastiche. I’m trying to cobble together a lot of science fiction literature into one complete narrative.” He has so far been approached by a number of small press people interested in the project.
“I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to be print it, like if it’s going to be colour, if there are going to be any silk screen elements or anything in it. Right now I’m just getting some of the inking done….I’m about a third of the way through.”
There is a sense of a narrative that comes across in his pieces, but never a full picture. It is up to the reader to deconstruct the pastiche and paired texts to unravel the possible strings of narrative within it.
“I was really interested not in making a linear narrative,” he says, “but in trying to make images and texts that pair up and play off one another so people can navigate the piece. Maybe not left, right, top to bottom, but just how they felt.”
In a recent interview with Bailey, website the Squid & the Meddler found there to be “a sinister logic to the games found within the many-layered, multifaceted prints.” While at first glance it’s tough to imagine that the pieces contain sinister games and logic – spending an afternoon feverously chasing references and piecing them together like a mad man reveals this to truly be the case.
In a print about time, Morlopticon, the word Morlox is set opposite More Clocks. “Oh! I really like that one,” Bailey says excitedly, “that one was just sort of silly wordplay. That was for a class outside of thesis…I made a print that carried allusions to The Time Machine by HG Wells. So Morlox spelled that way I think is like how Morlocks pop up in the Power Rangers in one episode.”
Closer readings reveal references to Shakespeare, Dark City, Doctor Who and Work of Art. These are the kinds of multi-layered, mind-melting trails of references and meanings that populate much of his work to date.
“I can’t help but also feel that deeper still is a story about the 1986-1989 generation – raised on Zelda and Power Rangers – coming of age and entering the real world. Regarding his pieces that focus on the ‘Shadow Self,’ Bailey says, “I was trying to play around with the relationship between Jungian theory and video games, and maybe push it past an innocent thing out of Zelda or something and maybe make it a little more perverted.” Indeed, some of the imagery can get pretty sexual and violent.
For Bailey, one of the defining features of the Toronto print-making scene is a tight sense of community. “You don’t really print alone very often,” he says, “just because of the amount of equipment and facilities that print requires, usually you’re in a print house surrounded by other people.
The print scene in Toronto is pretty exciting and I’m happy to have access to it.” As Bailey points out, there are a number of local zines and shops that reach out into the international, like Beguiling and Magic Pony. “There are more than a few print shops in Toronto that focus on contemporary work.” For now, Bailey is sharing a studio with four other artists, Nicolas Di Genova, Andrew Wilson, Patrick Krzyzanowski and Tyler Bright Hilton.
Though Bailey’s work is very much about intricate physical art processes, it seems well suited in the context of the popular art coming out of imageboard and meme culture on the Internet. We’re seeing a lot of art that resurfaces and recombines iconography from the videogames of the early 1990s – perhaps things that people are now realizing were important touchstones in their psychological development. “Any iconography from your childhood is going to be pretty informative on the way you form your identity,” Bailey says,
“So in my work I’ve looked back and tried to choose visual references that I felt were influential in the way I construct images as well as my tastes and probably the way I subconsciously think.” It is probably most appropriate then that Bailey’s cat is named Weegee, after an Internet meme (he stares a lot).