One of Jean-Antoine Watteau’s most enigmatic visions, Pierrot presents a Commedia dell'arte clown frozen in pose—in a stiff and unsure rêve. The drama of the work perpetually arrests us. Pierrot is the central character in the painting, though who is he really? Does he wish to escape the play and his ill-fitting costume? Why is Pierrot looking at us dreamily and what is he waiting for? Has he forgotten the plot or lost his lines?
Inspired in part by Pierrot, Jonathan Baldock has stitched together a cast of personages for his latest body of work. Informed by the history of painting, classical figurative sculpture, and drawing from high art and common culture, Baldock makes darkly humorous works, at once theatrical and fantastical. His mixed media work and installations reflect the idea that painting and sculpture support each other in their synthesis, and his works derive from an organic process of material play and imagination. Baldock’s Pierrot is the abnormal brood of Watteau, Persephone the queen of the underworld, modernist and classical Greek sculpture, northern European folk art, Venus figurines, and even a little bit of Pretty in Pink. What are realized are more than the sum of these references. Baldock puzzles out singular and unique characters, manifesting tangible and uncomfortable forms through marriages of unlikely materials and subject. Home economics meets Freud, felt and nursery pastels color Leatherface, this is where beauty unmasks the horrific. As with Watteau’s Pierrot, our scrutiny is rewarded with rich uneasy ambiguity.
Jonathan Baldock lives and works in London, where he studied painting at the Royal College of Art. He has participated in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Viafarini (Italy), KINOKINO (Norway), and is a current Acme Studios Fire Station (London) resident. Baldock’s work has been shown at Angstrom Gallery (Los Angeles); the Torrance Art Museum; Kunstbunker Nuremberg (Germany); and The Hub, Athens (Greece). He is included in Saatchi Gallery’s Newspeak: British Art Now exhibition, which has traveled to the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia and is now on display at the Art Gallery of South Australia. His presentation at Peregrine Program in Chicago follows a solo exhibition at Galleria Annarumma, Naples, Italy.