Jonathan Baldock’s practice incorporates sculpture, painting and performance. His work often takes a biographical form, addressing the trauma, stress, sensuality, mortality and spirituality around our relationship to the body and the space it inhabits. While his work is steeped in humour, it also has a macabre quality, which reflects the artist’s long-standing interest in folklore and primitive art. His series of ceramic ‘maskes’ teems with bright colours and outlandish expressions: ripples of clay allude to folds of skin, whilst incisions and abstract protrusions reveal features such as eyes, ears and nostrils. Here, Baldock toys with a cognitive process called pareidolia, a phenomenon that causes people to see faces in inanimate objects. The masks’ painterly finishes emphasise the playfulness of certain expressions, while rough, pumice-like surfaces hint at feelings of melancholia. Baldock’s research took him to the British Museum to study its collection of Mesopotamian clay tablets, which trace the linguistic evolution of pictograms into cuneiform script, the world’s oldest writing system. Inspired by these, the artist plays with clay’s communicative potential. He is also keen to explore the symbolic function of masks in his work. Invested with spiritual values, one can imagine the works being used as part of a pagan ritual.
- Artwork Details: 31 x 23.7 x 11.2cm
- Material description: Ceramic
- Credit line: © the artist. Image courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
- Accession number: ACC31/2019