If it's possible to put your foot in it artistically Charming Baker and Sam Branton, in their two-handed show at Signal Gallery, certainly know where to put their size twelves. With a lively humour and a distinctly dark wit, both artists willfully subvert their material in order to challenge our preconceptions and present us with surprising new versions of familiar images.
Charming Baker combines a number of complex processes into a deceptively simple whole. This simplicity is not the product of naivety or simplistic thinking but rather the paring down of elements that come from experience and wisdom, as well as a playful instinct to entertain us. The end results can seem âcharming', even elegant and playful, but because a sharp âmessage' is invariably the driving force behind the works, they always have a significant sting in their tail. For example in the work âGroup Shot' (pictured here) the artist has shot holes in the canvas with an air rifle.
Charming studied at Central St Martins and has successfully combined a career of teaching (at St Martins and Westminster University), some commercial illustration work and his burgeoning fine art career. A wide audience is now appreciating his art. Collectors from both the fine art world and the thriving Urban Art scene are buying his work. Indeed the darkly humorous point making in his work has been compared with the street art style popularized by Banksy over the past few years. His popularity and appeal were confirmed at his hugely successful solo show at The Truman Brewery in 2007.
Sam Brantons' portraits start their life as cartoon characters always with unusually shaped heads and mystifying orifices. On these bizarre images he superimposes the trappings of traditional portraiture. Other weird shapes and objects inhabit these scenes and hint at certain sinister aspects of the âsitters' life. In fact for Sam these characters have developed a life of their own and are linked together in a mutant aristocratic family tree. In these works the artist seems to be embracing traditional forms, but with a health warning that in the 21st century, these uncomfortable poseurs might come back and bite us on the neck.
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