7th December 2011



Christopher Baker’s latest work explores two very different venues, Climping Beach, West Sussex and Venice.   Both however, are linked by their proximity to the sea, the threat of erosion and their constantly changing weather and light.

Climping Beach, near Arundel is a fragile nature reserve of shingle, and sand dunes, a few miles from Baker’s studio.  He has walked and painted this scene for the last 20 years and it therefore seemed a natural subject to develop, exploring  the landscape in all weathers, lights and seasons, as it changes with the shifting winds and tides.

Baker is used to braving the elements, confronting nature at its most extreme.  A recent trip to Antarctica, resulted in a highly acclaimed series of paintings exhibited in Petworth House and the Royal Academy in 2006.

The small scale sketches were painted in situ working with frantic speed and energy, the brush marks bold and direct with no time for reflection.   His specially adapted painting trailer also gives Baker the freedom to work on large scale canvasses on site. On other occasions he has begun a painting indoors, only to find the need to take it out into the landscape and work directly from nature.

In travelling to Venice, Baker was confronted with a different set of challenges.  Here, he was preoccupied with the colour and light and how to set this down as rapidly as possible. Watercolour enabled him to work more rapidly than oils establishing the colours – in a series of quick, high notes – at the expense of form. The Venice paintings have a more luminous ethereal quality than the Sussex works.  While the landmarks are clearly recognizable, they are no more than indicated, it is the over riding light and atmosphere that dominate.

Baker’s solid grounding in the classical rules of painting, his understanding of compositional rules and colour harmony, give him the freedom to extend his works well beyond the realm of traditional landscape.  He has absorbed the planes and patterns of the landscape, using the device of strong diagonals to lead our eye into the distance until the land merges with the distant horizon.   He has restrained his colour to a muted palette which resonates with subtle accents.  While the paint surface may appear spontaneous and gestural, it is complex, with layer upon layer of brush strokes and glazes

The Sussex paintings should be seen as a series but not a linear progression; they inform each other in a complex interconnecting web of themes and harmonies. They move from the warm tones and luminous tranquility of East Path, captured on a hazy summer’s day, to the other side of Baker’s ego where in paintings like Blue or Blue Storm, the darker side of his poetic imagination takes over and he depicts nature’s elemental wilderness.

While these paintings rely on a rigorous intellectual process they are at the same time an expression of Baker’s deep love for the landscape.  They become a conduit for his emotional response to nature.  Like the great romantic painters of the nineteenth century they convey a sense of the sublime, a feeling of awe in the presence of nature’s overwhelming grandeur.  They enervate us and lift our spirits.  From the every day Baker distils a sense of poetry, drama and a belief in a dimension beyond our normal experience.

Baker is a leading landscape painter who has exhibited at Pallant House, Chichester, Petworth House the Royal Academy as well as internationally.   He has won awards and scholarships and is a tutor at West Dean College in Sussex.

This exhibition runs concurrently with: Summer Sculpture 2009: Paul Vanstone, Marzia Colonna, Anthony Turner, Dominic Welch, Helen Denerley, Jilly Sutton and Rosie Sturgis.