Anastasia Bay (1988) lives and works in Brussels. She studied fine art in Paris under François Boisrond. Using bold shapes and line she explores figurative painting, deploying themes from the classical canon; nudes and still lifes. She's co-foundator of the Brussels exhibitions platform: Clovis XV.
Does the place where an artist is based influence his or her practice? In the case of the French artist Anastasia Bay (b.1988, Paris), who lives in Brussels, one would be inclined to agree. Bay’s paintings have always had a caricatural touch, both in terms of subject matter and execution. But since her move to Brussels in 2013, this only seems to have increased. Figures such as Walter Swennen, for a long time an ‘artist’s artist’, have had a profound influence on a wide range of (younger) artists. And on Bay, also, who does not conceal her admiration for the Brussels-based painter. The same is true of René Daniëls, the most ‘Belgian’ of all Dutch painters.
A hat blowing in the wind, schematically depicted against a blue background, evokes the playful world of Swennen: an artist who has obviously borrowed from the rich comic-strip tradition of this country. As does a stylised cowboy on his horse, or a somewhat mysterious figure with a cigarette, hiding behind his turned-up collar and hat. Bay depicts these subjects in a graphic way , using precise lines and with an economy of means. The background of both works is deliberately executed in rough and uneven brushstrokes. Bay is more likely to paint over or wipe away elements in her paintings, which lends them a layered texture. Nor is she afraid of ‘mistakes’, which she unashamedly admits and even embraces because they add cachet and Sturm und Drang to the work.
In her recent paintings, there seems to be a two-fold shift. On the one hand – fortunately – the caricatural dimension is still present. But there is also a kind of purification or stillness. In certain works, her brushwork seems almost like a pencil drawing, a testimony to the sensitivity and lightness evoked by the work of Matisse and – to a lesser extent – Picasso. This refinement also translates into large, almost even areas of colour, as in Blue Jean, and a deliberately flat perspective, as in Woman Sitting (Blue Choir). It can also be discerned in the choice of subjects, such as a nude, a seated woman or a still life. For Bay, it is not about the subject but the execution. While the former is often classical, the completion is very different. Often, her works still have a roughly painted, raw surface that is composed of several layers. Like a palimpsest. And Bay does not typically opt for a classical composition but for light fragments. This can be seen in Reclining Woman (Green Sofa), a portrait of a reclining woman that is reminiscent of Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque . Bay does not depict the woman in question lying down, but only focuses on her legs, which lends the traditional composition a unique twist. As is often the case in her work.
Sam Steverlynck, December 2018