Melbourne artist Billy Bleed blurs the line between truth and narrative with his exhibition, The Beautiful Fallen, which runs at Magenta from July 24 – August 24. X-Press caught up with the talented but elusive artist.
Although he names among his key influences the likes of Hense, Stormie Mills, Liam Sparkes and Austin Lee, Billy Bleed never formally studied art, preferring instead to develop his own skills and style outside of the regimented confines of the classroom.
“I struggled throughout my school years not only academically but through a sense of belonging,” he explains. “I’m an emotionally charged personality and was very sensitive, never feeling that i quite fitted into the square or the round hole. I just did not fully understand the systems within playground — there was a glitch that I saw and did not like.”
His art, then, served as an escape from a world from which he felt alienated. “Painting is something that leaves me completely blank. When I paint I lose hours and have little memory of what has been happening. It is a moment when I am not consumed by thoughts. Like a black out if that makes sense? Its the only time when i feel at ease with myself and my surroundings.”
He is not, however, the kind of reclusive ascetic you may be picturing. By day, Bleed is a social worker in one of Melbourne’s biggest Emergency Departments – a job that has a huge influence on his creative output. In this role, he has crossed paths with a vast range of people, including “…those who have committed murderer and armed robbery, drug users, drug dealers and traffickers, prostitutes, war veterans, white collar criminals, the homeless, young children, the elderly, kids who have found the wrong crowd, refugees, victims of domestic violence, and those who are dying and their families. All of these interactions have had a profound impact on my sense of self and the world around me. They have to come out in my paintings. They are the raw emotions of my works. If I tried to ignore these experiences I’d most likely be locked up in an institution for the criminally insane. I’d explode.
“I owe it to these people to explore and share their stories with others,” he concludes. “Regardless of their situation – We need to share the dialogue to grow as a community. Even though I forget the names of people I work with over time, you never forget the stories and their struggle.”