Using readily-available and standardised materials, Baker’s sculpture and installation practice combines language with architectural and industrial forms. The poems she writes often address the status of materiality in her object-based work, using them to heat up what is considered to be cold, inert matter.
The logical jungles she traverses in her poems are accounts of fraught togetherness, physical frontiers, rescue fantasies and escape strategies. In turn, her sculptures are metaphors for actions, imagined or otherwise – they speak back about the forces they undergo, those of belonging, separation or control.
Baker has been drawn to the internal security shutter that electronically descends like a portcullis when closing the gallery. The space behind it is blacked out, making the shutter the backdrop of what appears to be an excessive enforcement operation. Each barrier Baker constructs in the window confirms the separation of inside and outside, yet this division is built from within, behind the glass, revealing more about internal vulnerabilities than the external threats they presuppose. Here, resilience is both a state of public self-affirmation and inadvertent isolation and obscurity.
The representation of nature in Baker’s work is inseparable from the movements of these psychologies. The need to reckon with images of natural form in relation to ecological catastrophe and geopolitical disunity runs throughout her recent practice – what stake these depictions have in world-building and world-destroying.
In a twist of signification, the security shutter’s grid becomes a trellis, a structure facilitating life instead of factionalising it. Fencing spikes mimic grass, its artificiality attesting to the human-nature of care, growth, and abandonment. Correction dramatises defensiveness, the effort it takes to protect oneself from harm, and in so doing reveals the inherent repercussions of this act.
JOSEPHINE BAKER lives and works in London. She was awarded the Sainsbury Scholarship in Painting and Sculpture at British School at Rome, 2017 – 18, The Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac Hon RA Prize, 2017, and the The Ivor Rey Travel Prize, Paris in 2016. Recent exhibitions include: 1d for Abroad
, Tintype, London, 2019; Drawing Biennial
, Drawing Room, London 2019; Sheltering Sky
, GAO gallery, London, 2019; Flood-tide
, Love Unlimited, Glasgow, 2018; Trout Steel
, The Horse Hospital, London 2018; Serpent and Shadow
, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2018; Night Music
, British School at Rome (solo) 2018; Terraforms
, Kristian Day, The Concept Space, Bermondsey, London, 2018; The Ghosts are in the House
, The Chopping Block, London, 2017–2018; December 2017, March and June 2018 Mostras, British School at Rome; RA Schools Show, The Farm
, with Gabriella Boyd, Royal Academy Schools Show, London 2017; Premiums: Interim Projects
, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2016; Kings Cross Continental
, 26 Caledonian Road, London, 2016; What Height
, Elbestr. 37, Berlin (solo), 2014; Blue Painting
, Chert Gallery, Berlin (solo), 2013