Jonathan Baldock: The Soft Machine
Curiously irregular and meticulously crafted, Jonathan Baldock’s hybrid forms occupy the gallery space, acting as both costume and object. The Soft Machine, Jonathan’s first solo exhibition in Wales, explores the relationship between the body and sculpture using installation and performance. Jonathan’s work draws unlikely parallels between seemingly disparate cultural references, nodding to literature, art history, pagan ritual, cinema, fashion and the carnivalesque.
Transformation is a recurring motif in Jonathan’s work: masks, nests and shells offer a kind of refuge. They are a new skin to inhabit; a place to lie concealed and protected. Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” For Jonathan, the mask provides a place where you can be yourself. His swathed costumes act as mobile homes which a performer or person can inhabit. Modest materials become monuments, brought to life through carefully choreographed movement; the inanimate becomes animate and the humorous unsettling. Acting as a kind of safe zone his sculptures can conjure memories of cosy children’s stories; though simultaneously also reference somewhat monstrous fairground attractions.
Interrogating the role of the forgotten or marginalised craftsperson in our culture, Jonathan has developed a visual language where the importance of materials continues to play a significant role in his work, transforming ‘lowly‘ materials into something of status by defying our preconceived expectations about what they can do or be. Jonathan’s work denies specific narrative in favour of conversation: between tradition and craft, movement and stillness, object and body.
Jonathan Baldock was born in 1980 in Pembury, UK. He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2005 and now lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include: Hot Spots, The Apartment, Vancouver (Canada), 2014; A Strange mix between a Butcher’s Shop and a Nightclub, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (UK) 2013; The Blue Epoch, Colloredo-Mansfeldský Palác, AMoYA, Prague (Czech) 2012; Musica, Annarumma Gallery, Naples, (Italy) 2011; Pierrot, PeregrineProgram, Chicago (USA) 2011.
Selected group exhibitions: Two Figures in a Landscape (choreographed by Rubato Dance Group), Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai (China) 2013; Relativity Absolute, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (UK), 2013; The Gathering, Mytoro Gallery, Hamburg (Germany), 2013; Implausible Imposters, Ceri Hand Gallery, London (UK), 2013; Pile, Chapter, Cardiff (Wales) 2011.
He was recently awarded the Abbey Fellowship, British School in Rome (Italy) and Swatch Art Peace Hotel Residency, Shanghai (China).
Images: Jonathan Baldock, detail of performing sculpture, 2014
Gallery photos by Warren Orchard.