For this exhibition Jonathan Baldock (b. 1980, Kent, UK) creates an installation of new work conceived during his Freelands Lomax Ceramics Fellowship at Camden Arts Centre in 2017-18. Comprising of precariously stacked ceramic columns, these new works are inspired by the discovery, in 1974, of more than a thousand perfectly preserved cuneiform-inscribed clay tablets, ca. 2500 BC, in the ancient city of Ebia, Syria. This exhibition pays homage to these extraordinary artefacts, developing an alternative history of clay as a tool of communication and a carrier of language that defiantly stands the test of time.
Drawing from histories of labour, folklore and storytelling, Baldock's experiments with glass, basketry and spinning highlight the decline of traditional making; skills lost due to technology that once transformed society, but now threatens our global demise. By bringing early human script into dialogue with emoji, the fastest growing contemporary language, Baldock explores communication employed by humans across time and cultures.
In addition, there is a series of new clay tablets of crudely modelled human faces or masks. Drawing on the most fundamental and universal of human images - two eyes, a nose and a mouth - they evoke both a primal icon and the hyper-charged ubiquity of the emoji - the smiley - that most contemporary carrier of meaning and emotion.
Borrowing its title from George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984, the exhibition evokes an absurd and unsettling alternative version of the present for a future viewer to discover. Baldock reveals how language both elucidates and obscures; in his work language becomes an object that is at once intellectual and messy but ultimately, for all its slippery, inscrutability, something irrepressible and aIive.
Supported by Freelands Foundation
Jonathan Baldock is the inaugural Freelands Lomax Ceramics Fellow. His Camden Arts Centre exhibition followed his extended residency at the Centre in 2017-18. His work has been shown internationally with recent solo shows including: There's No Place Like Home, CGP, London; My Biggest Fear Is That Someone Will Crawl Into It, SPACE, London, Jonathan Baldock, OneWork Gallery, Vienna (2017); The Skin I Live in, Nicelle Beauchene, New York (2016); The Soft Machine, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff; Hot Spots,The Apartment, Vancouver (2014) and A Strange cross between a Butcher's Shop and a Nightsclub, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (2013). Two person shows include the touring show Love Life: Act 1,2 & 3 (with Emma Hart), De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill; Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool; and PEER, London (2016-2018); Warm Bodies (with Olga Balema), Kunstvereniging Diepenheim, (NL) (2014). Group shows include Offshore, artists explore the sea, Maritime Museum, Hull (2017): Conversation Piece - Part 3, Fondazione Memmo, Rome (IT); Baldock Pope Zahle, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland; Seepferdchen und Flugfische, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen (Germany) (2016); Archetypes, Power, and Puppets, College of Wooster Art Museum (CWAM), Wooster, OH (USA); Only the Lonely / Seuls les solitaires (curated by Elina Suoyrjö), La Galerie centre d’art contemporain, Paris (Fr) (2015). Baldock is represented by Belmacz, London and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York.