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  Scott Baker              
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Rough transcript from talk for public program at Salon des Refuses, S.H. Ervin Gallery / June 12, 2014

 

Exhibitions

2014

Salon Des Refuses (Wynne)- SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

Headland - Depot Gallery, Sydney

2012

Salon Des Refuses (Wynne)- SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

2009

Salon Des Refuses (Wynne)- SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

Tally - Depot Gallery, Sydney

2008

Salon Des Refuses (Wynne)- SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

2007

Salon Des Refuses (Wynne)- SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

Fallow Country - Depot Gallery, Sydney

2006

Salon Des Refuses (Wynne)- SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

2005

6" x 6" sculpture show - Defiance Gallery, Sydney

Winter Crop - Depot Gallery, Sydney

Salon Des Refuses (Wynne)- SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

2004

First Crop - Depot Gallery, Sydney

1994

Side Show - Caffe Sympatico, Sydney

1992

Common Ground - Bondi Pavilion Gallery, Sydney

The question I mostly get asked is Why, wood? The simple and essentially accurate answer is because I'm a failed painter. I could not get what was in my head to meet with the end of a brush.

I am a keen tree planter, a mediocre carpenter and I love wood.
Collecting a pile of weathered tomato stakes from tree guards, seeing them for their colour rather than their woodiness set me down on this path.

So I use found materials. I am the person who has stopped and is ratting through the skip bin in front of your house renovation. If it's on the footpath or in a bin, it is heading for landfill and it's fair game to me.

I only look for painted wood, bleached and weather aged. I don't apply paint. The colour has to be there, along the work of time. Colour and collection of materials is a random exercise. I work with what I find ferrying kids about and doing the domestic errands. I get the the occasional tip off.

I grew up on a farm on the Darling Downs in South East Queensland. This is the place of my earliest memories. My family have farmed there for over 60 years and continue doing so.

I grew up with the idea of open space as a given, of walking miles as a kid...never seeing another person and never lost. Eyes on the ground, keeping half an eye out for snakes, ant nests, bits of junk, old rubbish heaps and animals, alive and dead. There was something particularly riveting about finding carcasses as a boy. The smell and chaos, the blackness of crows, the ants and the quietness of it all. I took it in deeply.

It could be regarded as flat and uninteresting country. There are no easy, green rolling hills, but plenty of cultivation from fence to fence and sporadic scrub paddocks. It's often dry and generally hot. But equally you can have 300mls in a night and be flooded in. Mckellar knew what she was on about with 'droughts and flooding rains '. The extremes are expected. That said, it is a much greener, and to my mind less harsh place now than in my memory as a child.

I worked as a farm labourer on and off until I was 25 doing sheep and tractor work in the main. My life has been in cities since then.

There is a strong imperative to 'make do' on a farm. Shops aren't around the corner....money is often tight...things don't get thrown away....there is always room to dump them somewhere, because it just might be useful sometime down the track.

In practice, this means a steady acumulation of junk and old machinery parts...but on occasion it happens that this stuff can be useful and converted to get you out of a fix....you patch it and keep on working.

So I have a certain repect for junk and have inherited the hoarding gene from my father who is always one to have a look around while dumping at a tip in case there was something handy to take back.

So I collect timber because I love it as a material. I never know exactly how it will be used, except to say it will become an image of memory of landscape or detail from that small part of the world. It might sound a bit limited, but in practice it has never felt that way.

I do so because I know that landscape...can hold a sense of it... It's dimensions are a part of my mental make up. There is the strong emotional connection to good and bad times. As a subject, it is harsh and the beauty is real but not easy. That is what I seek to show in my work.

I work on the floor initially putting timber of roughly similar dimensions together to work up a colour palette. At this time I am looking at how to get into it...how I will cut it up. I tend to use hand tools because it slows me down. If I have particularly nice wood with say, an exceptional colour...with a hand saw you have to work more so you spend time consider the cutting.

Wih a drop saw you can have it hacked up in no time and opportunities I couldn't see quickly get lost. I do have a drop saw for when I am certain and there is heaps of cutting to be done..it helps the RSI. But they are a bit scary. With hand tools it's easy to cut yourself...but pretty hard to cut something off.

While pushing this timber around at my feet I am looking for some moment of recognition.. some sense of form... i'm looking to be taken to a feature or feeling of that landscape. There are often hundreds of pieces so in forming up these initial impressions I attempt to allow some randomness to occur. It's sort of the glance out the corner of your eye awareness of something.

I don't want to think about every placement. I try to lose myself to some degree. At its best, it feels somewhat meditative. It's like ploughing for a couple of weeks. You don't need to look at the plough the whole time to know that the job is being done.

It's my sketch stage. You can refine later but that initial looseness is where I always get the bones of the picture. I don't know what the ultimate size might be. It's a bit of a mystery tour, waiting for something to reveal itself. The edges I spend alot of time on. I want the viewer to have a sense of the landscape moving out beyond the frame.

I always title my work to give a clue to what has driven the making of it..
While my work can be seen as abstract in most cases, that is more an end result than a primary motive. I don't really get 'Untitled', but do understand that coming to your own view of what you are seeing or feeling is one of abstraction's gifts.

Bu for me, I need to know what I am looking at or I cannot maintain the focus to stay with a pretty slow process.

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