David Bailey Ross

‘Head’ an exploration of the human psyche

David Bailey Ross explores the human psyche, aiming at mirroring the diverse moods humans can convey whether directly or through a more abstract representation.  Characterised by their beautiful transparency, Ross’ works seem transformative. Watercolour pools form in unexpected areas, providing more intuitive distortions. Ross shares here the behind the scenes of @galeriephantom .

@galeriephantom on Instagram is the account on which you publish your ongoing watercolour series ‘Head’, an exploration of the human psyche. Could you tell us more about the title choice and the manifesto behind this series? 

I title the works ‘Head’ as they are not portraits and there is not a manifesto as such, but ‘an exploration of the human psyche’ is the simplest way to summarise the series. I am interested in the different moods or symbolism the human head can convey, sometimes in simple and obvious ways and in others I am looking for a more internal or abstract representation.

Your artworks are characterised by their beautiful transparency. It feels like we have a direct access to what lies beneath the surface — a poetic surgeon almost. Wet on wet watercolour painting means that you should be working quickly to be able to choose where you want the colour to mark the most. How did you master the technique? 

It was through a lot of trial and error with materials and timings. Part of what happens with wet on wet watercolour is by chance, and I like to let the image develop whilst working. Pools form in unexpected areas, distorting marks I had laid down and opening up new possibilities. Watercolour does allow you to create delicate transparencies and there’s something organic and tactile about this.

Do you start from a photograph, or a drawing, or is it more of an intuitive outburst? 

I often use references of photographs that have been manipulated as a starting point — mainly as a reference for shadow and light. At a certain point the reference is discarded and I let the flow of the paint influence the final outcome. Some of the Heads are more literally referenced than others and I do like mix things up and work intuitively as well.

Your artworks are seen digitally through our screens. Do you think the feeling would be the same if we were to see the artworks tangibly? Was that a conscious choice of yours to make your work available through a device? 

Have you had any intention of holding an exhibition of your work and bringing Galerie Phantom into a physical gallery space?

I put a lot of thought into how I would digitise the work for online, but they are physical things that are best viewed in person. I use a lot of metallic paints and subtle textures that you can’t really appreciate on a screen.

BDSM gear is featured too in your work. Where does this interest for masks derive from?

I was interested in the idea of the wearer hiding their identity whilst using the mask to signify a particular role. Some of the gear is more functional, almost treating the head as an object which makes it an interesting subject. On another level, I just think BDSM gear is striking and fun to look at. I want to have fun with what I am doing and allow freedom to explore.

I see there is often a new post from you every day, even though the feed remains with 36 posts. Are you drawing every day and then archiving as you publish?

When I post a new Head I archive another, leaving at the moment 36 on the grid at any one time. I do try to be disciplined and paint everyday although it’s not always possible. There are many more Heads than what I publish, but generally I publish the newly completed ones. The @galeriephantom account is a pinboard for my progress. 

Will we be seeing other types of series? Which other realms would you like to explore? 

There are lots of things I still want to explore with the Heads — I feel like I’m just getting started. There is so much more that can be done with watercolour as well, so stay tuned.


Artworks · Courtesy of the artist

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