I was having a coffee in SiOP (Welsh for shop) SHOP in the Northern Quarter a couple of weeks ago, trying to chat, but my gaze kept getting drawn to the acrylic shapes displayed on the long wall of shelving.
At first glance they seemed incidental to the interior, but the more I glanced (eventually leading to close scrutiny) the more I saw in the simple acrylic shapes.
Primarily the elegance of the shapes, which could only have come from an innate sense of the ability to draw (the core of all art, whatever the medium), plus a sense of playfulness with those shapes. I was intrigued and asked Iwan (who runs SiOP with Lucy) for Rob Bailey’s contact details. A week or so later, Rob and I were sitting chatting at the same table.
Rob is an illustrator, whose client list is more than impressive: Google, Louis Vuitton, Samsung, Smirnoff, Mercedes Benz, Virgin, Liberty London… the list goes on and on. He graduated from MMU in 2005, having completed an Illustration and Animation course, before being commissioned by Common in the Northern Quarter to produce posters for their events.
Firstly he says, “The posters were useless for promoting the events, because I just wanted to make images. The actual type promoting the event was so small that people could hardly see it.” Secondly, “they were nicked as soon as they were put up. So I knew that people liked the images.” Common gave him his first exhibition and from there he went from strength to strength.
We chat about his influences, with Rob citing the Pre-Raphaelites for their ‘smooth’ lines and shapes. I venture that to me his images had the elegance of Japanese prints from previous centuries. “Hmmm,” he said. “I’ve never thought of that. Interesting.”
When Iwan asked him to put together a physical exhibition for SiOP he had never ventured into that medium before. “I just asked Paul at Fred Aldous how it could be done and he spent endless hours helping me to put the whole thing together. My work is 2D, I think that what I have produced here is 2.5D.”
The exhibition will change soon with David Bailey’s show (could there ever be two more contrasting styles?) arriving at SiOP. “Iwan and Lucy do lots to support the arts,” Rob reflects. “And I have no idea what I’m going to do with these acrylic pieces. Maybe I should stick them all together, but I have no idea how.”
Rob and his wife Deanna Halsall – also a very accomplished illustrator – are moving in the near future from Islington Mill to Spear Street in the Northern Quarter. A move they are very much looking forward to. “What could be better,” Rob muses, “SiOP for a coffee every morning and a minute away from Fred Aldous.” I suspect that there may be more 2.5D work on the way from Rob Bailey.
‘Pour Form.’ at SiOP SHOP, 53 Tib Street, M4 1LS