The Fool's Flipside

Jonathan Baldock


The role of the fool or jester was to entertain audiences of ancient and traditional courts, although there was always a belief that a fool’s honesty, wit, and clever word play delighted not only the privileged courtiers, but also spoke to the oppressed servants in the background. Bringing some light and humour into the tragedy of the commonplace the fool was always understood to have the gift of true wit assimilating the dilemmas of a situation by not overtly outlining them.

The Fools flipside, Jonathan Baldock
The Fools flipside, Jonathan Baldock

Darkly humorous Jonathan Baldock’s sculpture is linked to similar farcical and bizarre expressions, where beauty is mixed with horror and the grotesque. His utilisation of traditional home-craft methods are absurdly amalgamated with the perceptual tricks that are akin to the surrealist tradition. By deploying techniques such as knitting, weaving, and home economics, they all antagonise the perceptual reading of the work as his assemblage of objects and image are often drawn from high art or classical antiquity. His interest in the mask has continued throughout his practice returning to sour dough to replace clay to represent his clownish figurative forms. With this the texture resembles crumbling cake and the costume and fakery of false eyelashes, glass eyes and elaborate wigs are associated with the faded theatricality of the Comedie del’Arte. In opposition to the known classical forms of figurative sculpture Baldock’s objects and images are interpreted more as characters or players associated with belief. Like frozen costumes they have very little other function except to furnish that belief which could be anachronistic in Baldock’s secular society where most things have a defined function or place. By juxtaposing comedy and tragedy Baldock continues to perplex the viewer with his strange arcane correlations, dematerialising the work into socially scathing comments or creating ironic tension between the choice of material and his subject matter.

Cell Project Space will present Baldock’s first solo exhibition of work since he graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2005. Some of the works have been developed in 'VIR Viafarini-in-Residence', Milan with additional new works made specifically for the exhibition.

In 2009 Jonathan Baldock took part in ‘Stranger Things are Happening’, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth. He is currently exhibiting in ‘Newspeak’ at The Hemitage Museum, St Petersburg that will tour to The Saatchi Gallery in May this year. Previous exhibitions include 'Straylight Cavern' Cooper Gallery, Dundee, 2009 ‘From Panic to Power’, Angstrom Gallery, Los Angeles and ‘The Brotherhood of Subterreanea’, 2008, Kunstbunker, Nuremberg and 'Wassail' 2008, Cell Project Space, London.