The show will explore the concepts of mortality and beauty through the artist’s distinctively colourful works that defy categorisation as figurative or abstract, real or imaginary.
The theme of fragility has long been associated with Baldwin’s work, not only in its commentary upon the temporality of life but also in the delicate materials he utilises. Encompassing ceramics, silkscreen prints, resin, acrylics, spray paint and found objects, the artist’s mixed media compositions are crafted with precision, resulting in complex and intricate pieces. He begins each work without any preparatory studies but builds upon each one with meticulous care until a harmonious composition is achieved. The works are each deeply personal and often incorporate objects which Baldwin has been collecting since he was a child. A large proportion of the show will be dedicated to a series of delicate ceramics, a medium with which the artist has started to experiment further in recent years. Now working with a Sicilian pottery workshop, the artist is creating increasingly elaborate urn-like vessels which are representative of death and the fleeting nature of our existence. The most ambitious to date is perhaps “Sacrilegium” (2013) which is adorned with a real human skull cast in clay as well as 20% pure gold, crucifix, cherubs and an antique Russian bear figurine. These motifs increase the funerary connotations of the object, making it appear fragile in more ways than one.
In addition to working with vases and pots, Baldwin has also developed a series of large-scale tile paintings for the exhibition. The use of this technique is something rarely seen in contemporary art or in a secular context having been associated with the decoration of mosques and churches. Baldwin changes these associations in his work “The Picnic” (2012) which is made up of 96 tiles overlaid with several glazes and precious metals. The dreamlike scene is filled with juxtapositions of life and death, innocence and corruption; children play with a severed head whilst Mickey Mouse dances with a skeleton. In a final act of ‘iconoclasm’ the artist smashed the tiles before assembling them, to demonstrate their fragility.
Continuing the exploration of symbolism and narrative, the artist’s large-scale acrylic works are also like contemporary, anti-establishment interpretations of religious themes. “Faith-Less” (2012) is an apocalyptic vision of the destruction that human society could bring upon itself through its consumerist focus. A figure representing ‘Faith’ is seen taking off from earth in a space shuttle whilst chaos envelops the ground below. This work develops ideas formed in an earlier series The Road to Hell after Hieronymus Bosch, whose complex schemes populated with symbols and imaginary figures have been a great inspiration to Baldwin. By contrast, the artist has also developed a series of abstract canvasses which are devoid of any motifs but instead explore further his fascination with colour harmony. In comparison to others in the exhibition, these works evoke a positive response in the viewer but still ask us to consider the uncertain and short-lived nature of human happiness.
To coincide with the exhibition CCA Galleries (publisher of Dan Baldwin's limited edition silkscreen prints) are delighted to launch “Dan Baldwin: 23 Years”. The book is a visual retrospective of the artist's career from art school, through the struggle to become a full-time artist, to his current international career. Featuring a foreword and quotes from Baldwin, an essay by Dr. Ben Cranfield and over one hundred carefully selected images including original paintings, ceramics, sculptures and prints. CCA will also be unveiling several new silkscreen editions as part of Fragile including “Faith-Less”.
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