Essay by Curator Jessica Clark
Multi-disciplinary creative Peter Bainbridge reinvigorates the notion of ‘treasure’ in contemporary art in his latest series Metallica. The decadent new series of mixed-media print works immortalise symbols and appropriations of Australia, Pop icons, and Floral Emblems through the artist's spectacular use of hand-inlaid 24ct gold foil.
Paramount to this series is it’s title, emanating decadence and bringing forth connotations of the rich and lavish. Metallica is all of this and more with its subtly clever title suggesting an element of rock culture and highlighting Bainbridge’s great passion for music - “Music was a huge leveller and teacher, it was my divining rod, much like painting. It spoke the truth. Where everything else seemed a lie”. The importance of music to Bainbridge's practice is clear throughout his latest interview with Angela Tandori Fine Art. In it Bainbridge emphasises the deep and moving relationship, and almost spiritual experience he has with music and art-making.
The Metallica series in subject and composition, features Bainbridge’s iconic pared-back style that melds poster aesthetics with a stylish approach to minimalism. The resulting compositions present a contemporary take on Australian and Pop Culture ideologies, emphasising his distinct love for, “movie poster art, especially Polish” and “of course Saul Bass” the acclaimed American graphic designer. This passion, together with Bainbridge's celebrated history working in the fashion industry, shine through as explicit influences to both his artistic practice and pursuits. For Bainbridge style and medium are of utmost importance - it is an opportunity for the artist to share his passion for the high-end, first-class materials and process. He comments:
(The) materials (I use) are primarily Adobe Illustrator, then I work with the best printer and paper available. I’ve used Canson papers only - (French) Brilliant 320gsm. They’ve been making paper since 1570. And only oil based inks. Then its lots of colour tests at the printer, over and over again getting it right, that hue is crucial. Get the colour wrong and it’s all over! Materials, like the French paper, need to be expressed in full colour and underlined as much as possible. It says to the buyer, you are buying the real deal, it says come into my room and I’ll show how much I care.
The iconic subjects featured throughout the Metallica series are screen-printed (typically in profile) over a richly vivid background of vibrant oil-based ink. Their brilliant backgrounds are visually intensified by Bainbridge’s delicate application of hand-inlaid 24ct gold foil, encapsulating each subject and giving each work a contemporary edge. This 'edge' reinvigorates the notion of ‘treasure’ in contemporary art today. The aim for Bainbridge, in creating such a scintillating, decadent and poignant series of works, is to capture the viewer and reinvigorate the the soul. When talking on his practice and process Bainbridge explains;
“Great art does something to the soul, it possesses the viewer when you get it right. It's like a prize wheel at the fair, where they think if I watch long enough they'll win a prize. But seriously, art is like a confessional booth, you go in guilty and come out the other side cleansed. Absolution for the soul”.
Bainbridge's exquisite rendering and tactile detail within these works is further enhanced by his alluring choice of materials – printing each work on handmade French cotton paper and illuminating his compositions with the inlaid gold foil. Simultaneously, Metallica's pared-back compositions present a stylized approach to minimalism, and a visual celebration of the timeless fashion secret that less is more - a distinctive characteristic of Bainbridge’s work that stems from his many years working in the fashion industry.
As founding editor of Superfoto magazine and his online publishing venture Chicain.com - Bainbridge is well-versed in the reality of a contemporary world fuelled by technology and everything bling. With ease the artist has cleverly transformed what could have easily been a traditional body of work, elevating his subjects to the status of a treasured artefact.
Bainbridge’s distinct love of music, together with his acclaimed fashion design and photographic work, has culminated in this series. In it he finds the perfect balance between the refined and the raw - capturing the essence of his personality and presenting a series timeless and treasured. With his fashion photography having featured in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and his fashion design collaborations with Rose Borg exhibited at the The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Museum of Contemporary art in Osaka, Baltimore Museum in the United States, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney - it is no wonder Australian collectors have taken so quickly to Peter Bainbridge's latest artistic endeavour.
See below for links to the full interview with Peter Bainbridge to gain a greater insight into what fuels his artistic pursuits, and the inspiration of the new and exciting series of works, Metallica.