Jonathan Baldock has had quite the year. The London-based artist, whose work uses typically domestic techniques like felting, embroidery and basket weaving to discuss the surreal nature of the human body in squidgy form, has been at the centre of a whirlwind of exhibitions, including three solo shows in London, plus appearances in Rome, Hull and Sunderland. Two new projects – one at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and another at Bexhill-on-Sea’s De La Warr Pavilion – are set to open at the end of October. Plus he’s just about to embark on a five month-long stint at Camden Art Gallery as part of its Freelands Lomax Ceramics Fellowship.
Taught by his nan to sew, Jonathan’s tactile works place viewers in dream-like environments filled with a weird gaggle of characters. Each is a reflection on the sexiness, vulnerability or grossness of flesh. “My background is in painting and I would say my initial attraction to fabric came from its painterly qualities,” says Jonathan. “My technique is to take these coloured materials, cutting and stretching them in a manner similar to collage.” The fabrics are pinned and stretched, staying malleable until Jonathan finally fixes them down by hand stitching. “This process and the very nature of fabric as a kind of ‘second skin’ relates to one of the central concerns within my practice – the human body.”
Jonathan also sees the composing of his room-scale installations a bit like painting. Viewers are choreographed around the space and invited to piece together the mythology of his weird landscapes, peering through orifices and spying on intimate moments. This is especially true of his latest work ‘My biggest fear is that someone will crawl into it’, which will be on show at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art from 21 October. Inspired by the mouth-shaped door of the Zuccari Palace in Rome, this super-personal piece includes an enclosed four poster bed, which visitors can venture into to hear audio works of Jonathan’s mum reading the autobiography that she’d just finished writing. Voyeurs can also peer into the womb-like space through a series of smutty-looking peepholes.
Love Life: Act 3, a collaboration with artist Emma Hart, which opens at Bexhill-on-Sea’s De La Warr pavilion on 21 October, is similarly interactive. “It’s a collaborative exhibition around the theme of Punch and Judy which re-imagines these stock characters as if they were a couple alive today,” Jonathan explains. “The exhibition is their home and visitors are invited to experience a series of encounters with the sculptures being exhibited.” Expect violence, dark humour and some very warped textiles indeed.
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