Dan Baldwin: Fragile at Gallery 8
In a solo exhibition of mixed media compositions that provocatively capture the delicate balance between life and death, Fragile by Dan Baldwin evokes a myriad of emotion at Gallery 8 in South West London.
Upon first glance, the bright use of colour across the collection first captures your attention. Vibrant and inviting, you assume these works will be reflective of harmony and happiness but a simple step closer in any direction reveals great insight into the theme of fragility.
A major focal point at the entrance of the gallery, The Picnic, glazed ceramic mounted on birch ply with shards missing, and the popping reds of flowers and furniture. As the images of children with dejected expressions draw you in, the darker facets of the piece become clearer. A decapitated athlete reaches up to the sky to the owl in a tree that holds his severed head in its’ talons; a young girl, frolicking in the pale-blue brook, holds another jaggedly severed head. With blood spattering their limbs and clothing, the children go about their play, and the juxtaposition between soothing colours and graphic content stirs up a sense of fear and sadness in this hauntingly picturesque scene.
The strategic placement of this most gripping piece at the beginning of the exhibition captivatingly introduces you to the subject matter of the collection while also preparing you for the unexpected. Such is the common thread that runs throughout: a merging of opposing ideals, peace and violence, day and night, dark and light.
Reliquia, an intricate urn-like vessel made of glazed earthenware with precious metals subtly encompasses this motif with great success. Of all the displays, this seems the most ordinary. However, with further inspection, the symmetrical weapons of guns and tanks mixed in among the animals are quite striking. The boy, smiling while sitting atop a silver pistol with skulls, is an undoubtedly provocative image. It’s as if the harsh realities of life simply blend into our surroundings, as natural as the environment to which it is entangled.
While several pieces can seem somewhat repetitive in an abyss of colour mounted with random objects, mixed media paintings on canvas like This Is the Big City Baby and Faith-Less are alluring and chilling in their representation of reality – cityscapes, a satellite dish, a cabin in the woods, a washing machine, a McDonald’s wrapper – and the everyday elements in the latter make the chaos in this painting seem that much more lifelike.
With numerous references to pop culture and a fantastical focus on reality and discord with the use of ceramics, acrylics, spray paints and found objects, Baldwin offers a window into the fragile nature of our own existence.
Dan Baldwin: Fragile is at Gallery 8 until 4th October 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.