Beezy Bailey’s Onward Christian Soldiers, named after the rousing, motivational nineteenth-century English hymn, was created in response to the USA’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, however, instead of looking like a modern military force to be reckoned with, the moustachioed soldiers are decked out in nineteenth-century-style military garb. They wear kepis, side-striped trousers and tunics, complete with epaulettes and chest medals, and although they carry semi-automatic weapons, their high kicking goose-step stride makes them look like wind-up automatons, marching chaotically in opposite directions and dodging the swarm of tiny toy tanks buzzing around their ankles.
‘While there is a lot of playfulness in the spontaneous bright colours and imagery [of Beezy Bailey’s work], there is also a sense of sadness which comes through … “I don’t see myself as sad,” he explains, “but when you begin to reflect on it, we live in quite a sad world and I think an artist’s job is to reflect that”. With his poetic licence in one hand, and paintbrush in the other, Bailey is perfectly poised to make some pointed remarks about our society. “My portrayal of soldiers is similar to that of artist Robert Hodgins’s portrayal. It is the idea of soldiers being primarily tin soldiers, or clown soldiers, or soldiers as fools. There is something very ridiculous about going to war and killing people, and that’s why they look like tin soldiers”.’1
1. Unnamed reviewer (2004) ‘Beezy Bailey’s Clowning Glory’, 8 March, https://www.iol.co.za/entertainment/whats-on/joburg/beezy-baileys-clowning-glory-919416
Everard Read, Cape Town.
Everard Read, Johannesburg, One Man Exhibition, March 2004.