Christopher Baker

28th February 2014

Christopher Baker’s recent body of work celebrates his experiences of painting in the same spot at the Trundle near Goodwood on the South Downs for 64 consecutive days from January 23rd to March 30th 2012. Each of the studies were completed in one day, reacting to changes in light, mood and the patterns of the landscape. They form the basis for a remarkable group of oil paintings, drawings and monoprints some measuring up to
eight foot in diameter.

Like many artists before him painting in series holds a fascination for Baker. Every landscape is a social and psychological space with different versions of itself available to different perceptions. Committing myself to a constant view, ironically allowed extraordinary freedom to develop and experiment. It is the interaction of place and painter that is the true subject of the work, the reactions that are elicited from a place. Baker returned to the Trundle in 2013 to work on the larger paintings, continuing to work in the open air in all weathers. The canvas was rolled onto a drum which could then be unrolled in situ and leant against a wooden painting tent against the oncoming wind or rain.

He explains what drew him to this particular view: ‘the wind angles over the Isle of Wight  and punches gaps in the clouds opening trap doors that drop ladders of light onto the thin strip of sea. A south-west wind often carries rain. Your vision can stretch east to the edges of Worthing and west to the refineries of Southampton. This expanse is gathered together and joined through light and weather, seasons of colour, and flinted fields and angled woods. I distil it all with paint, halt its movement, fix it on canvas and know, that oil paint and the tent easel will be resilient to any kind of rain’.

The actual details of the landscape are pared down to essentials, inspired by the experience of making the studies. A culmination of ideas and feelings gathered for years, a directness and rawness which combines moods, seasons, light, colour and states of being.

A major influence on this series of paintings is Ruben’s Autumn Landscape with view of Het Stein in the Early Morning, which hangs in the National Gallery. ‘There is a simple beauty in this painting, Baker explains. ‘It is a view of Ruben’s own home that he was utterly familiar with and it was never intended for sale. We are led from foreground darkness towards the far edges of the canvas, and towards the emerging morning light.’

Movement from dark to light is a theme that also runs through this work. Baker deliberately started in the depths of winter, he has used a similar restricted palette with touches of vermillion and cobalt blue for the accents. He works with opposite colours, warm over cool and cool over warm, building the painting from the inside so that the intense, pure hues shine out from the inner layers of the painting Baker has exhibited at Pallant House Art Gallery, Chichester, Petworth House and The Royal Academy, as well as internationally. He has won major awards from the Royal Academy and Canadian and British Arts Councils . He recently played the part of the artist in Joanna Hogg’s film Archipelago, set in the Scilly Isles and screened at the 2010 London Film Festival and New York Film Festival 2013. He is senior fine art painting tutor at West Dean College in Sussex and runs the School of Landscape Painting.