Mixed Sessions: Winter Delight – Purchase tickets here
Mixed Sessions: Winter Delight – Purchase tickets here
November 11th – December 9th, 2017
Indigenous Canadian artists, from the Northwest Pacific Coast to the Cree heartland, explore hybridity and autobiography. Traditional art practices and iconography meet remix culture, minimalism, performance art and corporeal narrative, reconstructing personal and shared identities betwixt realities and contemporising traditional stories. Recent serigraphs and historic lithographs by Robert Davidson, Haida; sculptural photography by Meryl McMaster, Plains Cree; digital interventions by Kwakwaka’wakw Sonny Assu; panel and hide paintings by Kwakwaka’wakw Steve Smith; and a 2017 form-line tree drawing by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Coast Salish, as well as the place-based collaborative furniture of Pacific Coast artist and designer, Sabina Hill.
The Baldwin Recommends
Cooknst presents Mixed Sessions #4: Capitolina Books Edition
30th of September, 7:30pm
The Baldwin Gallery, 35 Eltham Rd, SE12 8EX
“We are delighted to announce this special edition of the Mixed Sessions in partnership with the author Nara Vidal for the launch of Capitolina Books, an online book shop specialising in contemporary Brazilian literature”
Early bird ticket price of £25 (+booking fee, until 30th August).
*Please reach Cooknst at www.cooknst.com if you have any food restrictions or allergies.
At a glance, Tim Shaw’s solid stone cottage has the gravity of his vast works in bronze, and so does Shaw himself. But while the Royal Academician is best known for his unflinching interpretations of war, politics and the human heart of darkness – ‘Casting a Dark Democracy’, ‘Man on Fire’, ‘Tank on Fire’ – he is not the grave and somber man you might expect. His rose garden is beloved and well-tended. And a whimsical Ken doll has incubated in the hedge. Inside his remote Cornish cottage, a papier-mâché puppy sleeps under a chair, and up the brilliant yellow kitchen wall, a small red school bus careens. A Jolly Green Giant bean tin sits on the shelf, reminding that Shaw employed just such a can as a plinth while sculpting ‘The Pregnant Fairy’.
Down the lane, ‘The Middle World’ – Shaw’s earliest but ongoing opus – fills most of a dark and musty cow barn where it was originally conceived. ‘The Middle World’ is at once baroque, looming, hybridal, disorienting, comical and threatening. Beyond it are stacked the plaster moulds of giant, disassembled heads and feet, and – ghostly bound up in bubble wrap – the crazed figures of ‘Ketamine (The Bisto Kids Gone Wrong)’.
Shaw is the longest-standing artist to make his studio in the iconic farmyard, watched over by an imposing but ramshackle manor house where owner Michael Pokenhorn lives. For almost thirty years, Michael has supported young artists and artisans by offering them his outbuildings as simple, inexpensive studios.
The farmyard retains the values and vibe of Cornwall before its tourist boom, when an artist could rent a boat builder’s shack with a view of the sea, while surviving on the dole. Sitting on a hill above Falmouth, ‘The Farm’ might be mistaken for an island of lost boys.
Occupying one of The Farm’s studio-sheds is artist Carlos Zapata, who, as a lone young man, with no money in his pocket and no friends or relatives to greet him, immigrated to England from civil war-torn Columbia. Today, he’s a successful automata-artist and sculptor and his work is held by museums across the world. Zapata is a handsome, gentle man who speaks with a graceful Columbian accent and whose work is influenced by both the exuberant folk traditions and the violence of his youth. His automata – mechanical hand-cranked sculpture – can be playful and delightful, like in ‘Carnival’, a dancing menagerie of animal-headed creatures. But, recently, Zapata has turned his attention to sculpting darker memories in the guise of toys. Playing on the tradition of toy soldiers, his series ‘Child Soldiers’ remembers the kidnapped children forced into service as guerrilla insurgents. The effect of a toy is visceral, with disquieting implications. A little wooden boy holds his hands in the air. A posy of child soldiers point their machine guns at him. You turn the crank underneath. You hear the rat-a-tat-tat. It’s you who killed the boy.
At the other end of the studio, Shaw is constructing a green man of the woods. It’s a light-hearted figure constructed of bent cardboard, but the distance between it and ‘Dark Democracy’ is not as far as you might think. There is no contradiction in Shaw’s work and it makes little difference whether he is shaping a tiny wax maquette or working on a giant A.I. robot: humour and horror, light and dark edge against each other, taking form with equal mastery, be it in bronze or barbed wire or stitched together from old clothes. ‘Casting a Dark Democracy’, ‘Ketamine’, ‘Middle World’, ‘Green Man’, ‘Pregnant Fairy’, and most recently, ‘Breakdown Clown’ comprise an ever-extending pantheon, in which Shaw has captured the primal energies conducting life and death.
thank you to everyone who came to Blacks Club in Soho to celebrate an excerpt of The Sublunary World.
If you couldn’t make it, or would like to see the show again, just call The Baldwin Gallery and make an appointment. The exhibition will hang at Blacks through June and July, and we would be delighted to welcome you, discuss art, First Nations, and the works of Meryl McMaster, David Ellingsen and Tim Shaw RA.
t: +44 203 620 6744,
Let’s begin with the founder, Dennison Baldwin Smith, and the question, why does a novelist, in the throes of finishing her fourth book, open an art gallery?
What looks like a curveball isn’t.
Unusually for a novelist, the most important players in Dennison’s life have often been fine artists. She has taken her inspiration from, and her intentions have been shaped by, the visual arts, even more than the literary.
As a mother, she spent long days in the National Gallery with a baby hitched to her back – because you aren’t going to read Crime and Punishment to keep a baby happy.
And as a young struggling writer, she spent her starving artist years in Cornwall, where her dumpster-diving boyfriend provided the food, and Dennison whipped up large dinner parties for other young struggling artists. Like herself, some are extremely successful today, amongst them Tim Shaw RA and Alexandra Roussopoulos. But the sense of community forged in those early years continues, and today it takes shape as an art gallery.
Far more unusual is the impact a Navajo family of shepherds had on Dennison’s life. Taken into their family and initiated into their customs, Dennison acquired a deep respect for their integrated worldview and its expression through art. These continue to shape her novels, and now The Baldwin Gallery.
In keeping with Navajo philosophy, The Baldwin Gallery is unique in its use of narrative and the interdisciplinary as a platform for appreciating visual and applied arts. We offer art in context and relationship and forge links between artists with strong place-based philosophies, whether indigenous North American or European. We offer quarterly literary, academic and performance salons to create community and expand the appreciation and understanding of contemporary art.
An elegant home-based gallery, we think art should be an integrated experience. ‘One taste’ is the expression. From the white cube to the bedroom wall. Or even, open the closet, and it’s there.
And so we bring contemporary art into the European home life, with special attention to indigenous North American artists. Inspired by the Native American understanding of art as who you are, where you live, what you breathe, and not as mere commodity, The Baldwin Gallery = Art is Home.
Robert Davidson has opened the door for younger artists to integrate their history and longstanding customs into contemporary art movements. Like Davidson, Kwakwaka‘wakw artists, Sonny Assu and Steve Smith are inheritors of the ‘formline’ art tradition, defined by a complex stylistic vocabulary of shapes, geometrics and topographies, historically employed in totem poles, house fronts and transformational masks. Reshaping the formline in the face of the personal and political, artist Steve Smith individualizes his tribal identity, while Sonny Assu elides Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakwak practices and Pop Art, challenging corporate and nation-state colonialism.
In the tradition of mentorship, Steve Smith was originally taught by his father. Painting his father’s carvings, his work was meant to pass as his father’s. When he surpassed his mentor, and his ‘self’ entered into his work, he became a contemporary artist. Today, these origins remain the foundation beneath bold experiments in form and colour. Smith interprets formlines through the changes and challenges of personal history. He credits a recent heart attack and the visions experienced during a triple bypass surgery for altering his palette from the red, green and blacks of Northwest Pacific indigenous art to a polyphony of colour.
Sonny Assu, graduate of Emily Carr College of Art and Design, uses painting, sculpture, large scale installations, digital constructions and photography to challenge monolithic commercial culture. ‘Consumerism, branding, and technology are new modes of totemic representation,’ writes Assu. Exploring the effects of colonisation on the Indigenous people of North America –loss of land, language and cultural resources – Assu deconstructs perceived identities and overturns the myth of the virgin continent and its vanished peoples. His digital series, Interventions on the Imaginary, imposes the traditional formline on pre-existing narratives, challenging colonial depictions of the receding Indian and the empty continent. Like alien spaceships, neon formlines hover above early colonial landscapes, interrupting the imperialistic tale of the ‘other’ and inverting the gaze.
The philosopher, Martin Heidegger said it:
Home is dwelling.
Dwelling, from the word to build, bauen, implying to cherish and protect and preserve and even to spare. Dwelling is an act of kindness and necessity.
For Heidegger, home is a place of both being and becoming.
Think of it this way: hair down, but hair growing.
Home is how we inhabit earth, architecture, flesh, thought structures and art. Home is reciprocal. It protects us, and we it. But how does art do that?
Art is a dialogue between the artist who makes and the viewer who cherishes. If protecting us means allowing us to be and provoking us to become, then certainly art is home.
Dwelling, says Heidegger, is what humans do. It’s ‘the essential existential core of human being-in-the-world from which there is no escape.’*
Which sounds a little ominous. And dwelling is not always cosy, because there is an inescapable tension. For Heidegger, this is an imperfection in the making.
Sometimes that imperfection is where the magic happens. The Baldwin Gallery won’t be selling those Tim Shaw sculptures that have emigrated through four countries and eight homes over twenty years with owner Dennison Smith, and which wear the dinks and marks of time and travel. (Dennison would never part with them!) But we will exhibit them, because their imperfections deepen their story, and they are richer for being cherished. (Shaw’s work will be offered in pristine condition, for a new home to add the imperfections.)
Long before the environmental crisis, Heidegger accused us all of failing to dwell deeply. He said we demand too much of the world and – whether in regard to ‘how we build, see, understand, [or] think ‘– we should learn to let the world and ourselves be.*
What is home is a many-storied question, which dovetails with what is indigenous and who are we.
It’s a question we will be exploring in shows, salons and blogs, over evenings of food and wine, through art, literature, music and discussion, as we welcome artists, salonists and guests into Dennison’s Blackheath home. (See events.)
© Dennison Smith
* David Seamon, ‘Concretizing Heidegger’s Notion of Dwelling: The Contributions of Thomas Thiis-Evensen And Christopher Alexander’ in Building and Dwelling [Bauen und Wohnen], edited by Eduard Führ.