‘Unearthed’ is Jonathan Baldock’s first solo exhibition in Germany. As its title suggests, the presentation mines the British artist’s 20-year oeuvre spanning textiles, ceramics and installation. Bringing together a constellation of works which have never been shown together before and, in many cases, have not been on display for over a decade, the exhibition highlights the artist’s prolific and varied practice. The mystical and theatrical character of Baldock’s work is palpable in the historical exhibition rooms of Göttingen’s medieval Old Town Hall. Folkloric motifs reflect the artist’s longstanding interest in mythology and engage with the environment in an uncanny way. The exhibition includes works and costumes which Baldock has activated through performance, perceiving his body not only as a thinking and feeling tool, but as a thinking and feeling canvas.
Though autobiographical in content, the exhibition contains many elements which are universal. Baldock has a powerful relationship with his mother, who taught him many of the crafts and skills he uses in his practice. From this early dynamic to the development of a friendship and shared understanding as adults, the artist tenderly illustrates their important bond. Finding inspiration in his mother’s garden, Baldock has created a series of works based on flowers. Faces appear within them; floral forms and human body parts adorn vases and far-reaching roots crawl along the ground below. A large sculpture, ‘Mother Flower’, reflects Baldock’s theatrical and immersive style. He comments, “I’d like my flowers to look like they could perhaps eat you.” The works are rooted in humour and possess a camp element, aspects that the artist is continually drawn to.
Just as the ethos of Baldock’s practice lies in affording attention to the forgotten or overlooked, the exhibition foregrounds previously unseen connections between his works, tracing a root system of recurring materials and themes. The artist employs textural, malleable materials like cloth and clay to investigate themes of trauma, mortality, and spirituality as they relate to the body.
The ritualism of Baldock’s time consuming physical techniques, such as hand-stitching, unveils how slow, craft-based practices unfurl gradually and in parallel with their creator’s own trajectory. Baldock’s choice of materials and technique inform the contextual richness of his compositions, which are often biographical in their reflection on human form and our inner psyche.
The act of making is crucial for the artist as it allows the work to embody the sociocultural, economic and historical context of itself and its creator. A humorist at heart, Baldock playfully balances this heavy subject matter with bright colours and witty compositions. His practice unravels the hardships, inequalities and absurdities of human existence, reflecting on our relationship to ourselves, one another and the earth.