Walter Bailey was born in Sunderland, the son of a North Sea Fisherman, from the age of seven he joined his father for long periods at sea. This experience left him with a lasting impression of the vastness of nature and the interconnectedness of the natural world and the cosmos. In 1989 he became apprenticed to the sculptor, David Nash in Wales. He worked with Nash for three years, deepening his understanding of sculpture and the nature of trees, learning to work with the properties of different kinds of wood, their limitations and potential.
Wood is still his primary material sourced locally from trees which have been raised sustainably or fallen, using the woodland as his studio. ‘I celebrate the living world’s capacity to generate organic grace through the arc of decay and growth; natures cyclical and triumphant resurrections on the cusp of chaos’, he explains.
Bailey takes a direct experimental approach to his work, he carves and erodes with hand tools and scorches the wood to create a patina to illuminate the biography and age of the tree. The wood is manipulated and burnt into delicate elemental forms, often incorporating lattices and negative space. Much of his work is site –specific, he creates monumental pieces which hold their own on a grand scale, as well as smaller domestic work.
Bailey describes his practice, ‘I had a clear vision, to work within the forest environment with a single material, I planned to do this for one year. This was thirty years ago, thirty years of immersion in the domain of the living world, working in all weathers and throughout the year. From hedge to field and forest I have gleaned my materials from the fallen, an itinerant worker at the altar of the tree’.
Walter Bailey’s work can be found across the globe, in a vast range of public and private collections. His series of ‘markers’ across the Surrey Hills, were installed in 2000 and in London his work graces Park House on Oxford Street and 60 St Martins Lane.