Bay Backner portrait headshot photo artist

Surrealist Meta-Artist

My work exists on the boundary between our sense of self and the digital media we consume. I use classical oil painting, technology and community-building in my practice, which sits within the Surrealist tradition and present-day ‘meta’ concerns.

The physicality of my work is important, even when it takes a digital or meta form. I often make and, increasingly film, real-world interventions into the surface of my paintings – from embroidery to poured oil. New collaborations with NFT technologies are opening ideas about how I can give digital art meaning within shared, human spaces. 

I graduated in physics from Oxford University, but identified more with philosophy than contemporary science. Poet Muriel Rukeyser’s idea that “the universe is made of stories, not of atoms” still profoundly resonates with my work. I am the founder of Thursday Society, a distributed, global arts collective, and Colonia Roma, a women’s collective in Valencia, Spain.

My paintings are exhibited internationally and I am represented in the UK by Runway Gallery, London and by The Jan Royce Gallery in Valencia.

Artist Biography

“Meet the anti-scroll model….Bay Backner.”
— Grazia Magazine

“Bay has an uncommon affinity and flair with paint. Very impressive.”
— Peter Duggan, Author, Artoons

A recent film about my creative process by filmmaker Steve Kempen (featured in my 2021 collaboration with The RW Project)

And more about my work…

Renaissance Painters & Surreal Consumerism

I spent seven years studying the techniques of the Renaissance painters, above all their use of chiaroscuro. I developed a method of oil painting which blends these Renaissance techniques with a style and palette drawn from digital media. The power of digital media over our sense of self is questioned throughout my work.  

The surreal subjects of my paintings often contrast our internal realities with externally-imposed, consumer identities. For example, in my ongoing “Flower Women” series, I compare our culture’s identification of women as “flowers” with our physical, embodied selves.

Embroideries, Geometries & The subcoNscious

My need to break the physical surface of my paintings comes from the interplay I see between external expectations, digital media and our subconscious minds. The hand-embroidery process is physical, almost violent, needing pliers and brute force to pierce the canvas. The embroidered geometries conceal and impose order on the paintings, and yet they make them complete.

View Bay’s latest paintings


Bay Backner, MetA Artist – Biography

Bay Backner (Burnley, UK, 1981) is a Surrealist meta-artist working in oil paint, technology and community-building. She is a graduate in physics from Magdalen College, Oxford University (2003), and studied at The Ruskin School of Art (Life Drawing, 2002) and Central Saint Martins, UAL (Experimental Printmaking with Sean Myers, 2006; Textiles, 2007). Her work explores ideas about digital identity, the self and the subconscious mind.

Bay works from her studio in Valencia, Spain and is the current artist in residence at The British School of Valencia. She exhibits nationally and internationally, and is represented by London’s Runway Gallery in the UK. Recent UK exhibitions include Blacks Club, Soho (2021), Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax (2020), Victoria House, London Fashion Week (2019), AAF Battersea Art Fair, London (2018), and Light Night Festival, Leeds (2017). She has had solo shows at The RW Project, Valencia (2021), Espai Metafora, Valencia (2019), Vortex, Valencia (2018) and The Gallery at 164, Leeds (2017).

Selected group exhibitions include Galeria Cuatro, Valencia (2021), Edgar Modern Gallery, The RW Project, Saltaire UNESCO World Heritage Site, 4P Gallery and Sporting Club Russafa. Bay is the founder of Valencian women’s art collective Colonia Roma, and most recently curated a series of covid-responsible art happenings, Masks on Miércoles (2020), in her city. 

More about Bay’s artwork
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