David Jay sees painting as a conversation – one that shouldn’t be ignored.
“When I paint, I’m having a conversation – and it’s a very enriching conversation,” said David Jay, bassist for Bauhaus and Love and Rockets.
“It’s different than what you would have with music. It’s a more intimate, much more intense and subtle conversation.”
David Jay ignored this conversation for a while. During the pandemic, however, he picked it up again. The fruits of his labor, known as “Paintdemic,” are on display at the Li Mei-Franco Gallery at 1057 E. Green Street, Pasadena, through Saturday, December 30.
Drawing has been his longtime love. He began painting as a child and later studied art at Nene College of Art in Northampton, England. However, he was quickly distracted by music. David Jay vowed to return.
“I’ve always wanted to get back into painting,” he said. “When 2020 came around and everything that came with it, I saw that it was going to be a serious situation. So, I made a trip to the local art store – before everything closed – and bought a ton of art supplies. I dragged them back into my little back room and set up a makeshift studio. I threw myself into painting. It was really therapeutic. I did not make it with the intention of showing or selling. It was just for my own therapy and pleasure.
He acquired nine canvases after two years and kept them in storage. Then he met people from Li Mei-Franco Gallery. Although the visit was social in nature, they asked him if he had any art he wanted to show. He thought about it and said it was. David Jay admitted he felt a bit sensitive about showing the pieces he considered his “children”. They were born during the pandemic and are now up for evaluation.
“It was a private venture,” he added. “I had no intention of showing these pieces. This is actually a very good mindset – not to think about an audience, but to make art for art’s sake and for yourself.
“It’s very liberating. It’s like that with music. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to be in this situation if you have any degree of success and an audience. It affects him to some degree, but subconsciously more than anything.”
He was relieved when the paintings were received favorably by the likes of American contemporary artist Shepard Fairey at his opening reception. The event rekindled his passion for art and fueled his burning desire to continue with it.
“It was very well populated with very interesting people, quite famous artists,” he said. “Shepard Fairey said some really nice things about them. That was so encouraging. The event had a great spirit. It was beautiful. It was moving. The paintings naturally bring to mind the times when we couldn’t get together and celebrate art, have fun and share music. So it’s touching.”
2024 will be a busy year for David Jay. If the right offer comes along, he, his brother Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash will play again as Love and Rockets. The band, known for their hits ‘Ball of Confusion’ and ‘No New Tale to Tell’, played the Cruel World festival in 2023, which followed up with a hugely successful US tour.
“It’s been a fantastic experience this year with that,” he said. “The three of us are very willing to do that if the right offer comes along.”
Besides art, David J has a number of completed collaborative projects. His four albums include spoken word performances and a solo record that is “99% there”. He has several production jobs in the box or planned.
“I’ve never been this busy,” he said.
After nine solo albums, David Jay said he had no desire to record another as they were more labors of love than profit.
“I put so much into them. I spend a lot of money on them,” he said. “The format, even though I love it, especially an album with good consistency, it felt like it was falling a bit by the wayside.”
He’s considering sending individual songs to streaming services as soon as they’re done, rather than sitting down and creating a 10- to 12-song collection. However, he cannot escape the “old album concept”.
“I love him too much,” he said. “It’s great that vinyl is coming back to the extent that it is. It’s still niche.”
But painting still calls to him. It’s a conversation he’s ignored for a while. He doesn’t have to have an item when he starts. Spontaneity and instinct are the key.
“Whatever I was feeling, I would get out the acrylics and just make shapes and really get into the texture of the paint,” he said.
“I was expressing how I felt. There was a lot of emotion, extreme emotion, because of the situation we were all in – frustration, fear, a strange disconnect with time and it’s very strange, but a strange calm, but also anger.
“It’s all just going to come out in shapes and textures and color. Then I’d step back and look at what I’d done, and I’d see a particular theme emerge, naturally. This is the conversation. I listened with my eyes, then I saw, “OK. That’s what it’s all about.”
David J then returns to the canvas with a more focused approach, taking out the subject, refining and refining it. He enjoys this painting process.
This process is to relax, to feel free. Painting work, performing spoken word, playing with Love and Rockets, and releasing his solo records are all avenues of creative expression for him.
“If I’m working on music, sometimes the music itself is not enough to express the idea,” he said. “So then I’ll do visual art, collage or paintings to that, as an extension of it. I have done several such projects. I’m just following the muse. I just listen to that voice and follow it.