Saturday, 13 September 2014

Personal reflections on William Morris & 'In Paradiso' by Deborah Baker

Book cover of new publication In Paradiso by Deborah Baker
Available for the special price of £30 during the exhibition (£40 thereafter)

The first time I became aware of William Morris was a little pack of gift cards I received as a present as a teenager. They were a selection of his patterns, repetitive, natural & somewhat old fashioned to me at the time. His work takes maturity to appreciate, I know that now. The cards were useful as thank you's for gifts at birthdays & Christmas, but that was as far as my thoughts went back then. Without any contact with his work (I was living in my hometown of Manchester at the time) it was of no importance to me. 

The Morris Room at the V&A 

Then I was to encounter him again years later walking into the Morris Room at the V&A & falling in love with it at first sight. The pressure to live in minimal surroundings, free from clutter or homely touches rarely transfers to reality. This room - & subsequently his furniture, politics & associates in the arts -  made me think of alternatives to the crisp white walls & trendy furniture we are supposed to be striving to live amongst. 

Presenting ourselves online through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & all the rest of the social media options as having amazingly happy lives where we are always out with friends enjoying ourselves, in glamorous locations with fancy food & drink is a facade, a perpetual press release to the world.  

Why not allow for alternatives, to be somewhere where patterns with all the tangled aesthetic complexity of Morris can be quietly studied, reflected upon & absorbed. The profundity of a visual a statement is often found when the image does not reveal itself all at once. Powerful images rarely deliver in seconds, sometimes they can take a lifetime to appreciate as we mature & find more within them, as our own experiences in the world grow so does our eye for meaning. Morris' work remains timeless & popular as ever for the simple reason that it is carefully studied, using the already profound certainties of the natural world as inspiration to weave layers of humanity into each design. (See the selection still available here)

I have fond have memories of patterned wallpaper or frilly doilies on furniture, tiny ornaments grouped on windowsills or in dark wood cabinets. In them lie homely comforting memories of places where care was taken to surround themselves with pleasing things for themselves, not to show off to others (as the monetary value of such things weren't high) but to enjoy & treasure. 

In this age of post-modernism where do we go? Conceptual art can often lack aesthetic & decorative art vice versa. Finding the balance of meaning, emotion, passion & avoiding pretension is the battlefield we cross when we enter into the domain of the arts. But when we find it, oh what joy there is to be had. 

I found this in Deborah Baker's work - currently on display at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow - her raw emotions are transformed into poetic visual feasts of nature. 

©Deborah Baker Betulanimbusi
Courtesy of L A Noble Gallery

When embarking on the creation of her garden it seemed futile to just record each stage as the plants were continually growing & changing, the seasons transforming their appearance in perpetuity. With this in mind her response as an artist was to depict this growth by making the plants 'breathe' through the fracturing & movement infused into her aesthetic. The leaves in Betulanimbusi seem to burst out from the land skyward, exuberant & free. 

©Yayoi Kusama “Leaves”-1954

There is an obsessiveness, repetition of forms, spectral wonderment in a  fractured assemblage of photographic imagery which operates on many levels, just as a painting does, layering each shape amid the planes of colour built up in intricate detail. Well known doyen of the art world Yayoi Kusama's explorations of the natural world dance amongst the vibrant colours of her palette in her early work pictured above. Her compulsive style of working is in itself a therapy to Kusama. The therapeutic effect of both Baker & Kusama's work extends to the audience that views it. (If you have chance to watch the documentary on her do, it may surprise you a lot)

Whenever people come into a room with Baker's pictures they always become quiet, reflective & calm. In breaking down natural elements without completely removing the recognisable plants within her work, Baker doesn't merely record, she recreates the feelings of being in a garden, with all senses alert to receive the visual dance of the living with a reverence of the past.

©Deborah Baker Pruneucalus

I am the happy owner of one of her works, which fills the long gap in the view from my bedroom window of the cherry blossom that comes & goes so fleetingly each spring. 

©Laura Noble Cherry Blossom April 2013
All rights reserved 

The movement in her work through the multiple layers of light, dark, form take you into the picture & beyond its physical borders to a psychological space somewhere between waking & dreaming. When I look at Pruneucalus I am sometimes filled with lightness of being, sometimes it understands my dark self too. 

It is this dichotomy that renders her works longevity.They are not just pictures of plants, trees & flowers, they are filled with the fears, hopes & dreams of life where words fail to express. 

In Paradiso Folded cards in 3 designs also available 

In Paradiso will be on display from 3 September - 2 November 2014 (click for all info)

To accompany the exhibition the Limited Edition book In Paradiso (500 copies), including essays by Laura Noble and Nancy Ann Roth will be available to purchase for the special price of £30 for the duration of the exhibition, (RRP £40). Deborah will be signing copies of her book on 3 October.
Wear a work of art

3 crepe de chine scarves of immense beauty & delicacy are also on offer, each in an edition of 50 only, they measure 100 x 150cm & hang like a kimono when worn loosely around the shoulders.  £240 each

In Paradiso book:  Deluxe Limited Edition of 10:

Available to buy within a slipcase complete with a print of Raouliexigu, priced at £200 each

In Paradiso will be on display from 3 September - 2 November 2014

Transport: Walthamstow Central (Victoria line and national rail) or Wood Street (national rail)
Please note that there is limited pay and display parking available on site