Subversive surfaces: taboo and fragility in the art of Gina Baum and Lou Baker, exhibition handout

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Subversive Surfaces

Taboo and fragility in the art of

Subversive Surfaces

Gina Baum and Lou Baker

Introduction This exhibition challenges modern perceptions of the human body through the thought-provoking work of Gina Baum and Lou Baker. Through their practices they work to break down the many boundaries constructed in our collective consciousness; those divisions between private and public, interior and exterior, which shape our attitudes toward the body as an uncomfortable site of taboo and fragility. The corporeal surfaces they create invite us to feel them with our eyes. Sometimes they are appealing, other times repellant, and often both; creating a push and pull between the beautiful and the grotesque, amusement and horror, attraction and repulsion. They provoke a response, encouraging us to acknowledge issues that are difficult to talk about; and the physical, psychological and emotional vulnerability that accompany them. The term subversive also refers to the way the artists work. Using ceramics and textiles they create challenging sculptural works which undermine the expectations of these materials, questioning a long-standing division between art and craft. Exquisite porcelain forms and soft sculptures take what are normally considered traditional craft materials into the realm conceptual art.

Subversive Surfaces takes place in the Main Gallery, Basement Cells, foyer and stairwell of Town Hall Arts.

Town Hall Arts 9 June —14 July 2018

Market Street, Trowbridge, BA14 8EQ 01225 774306

Please note: Access to the Basement Cells is limited to those who can use the stairs. Please ask a member of staff for further information.

Gallery Guide:

Gallery Guide:

Main Gallery

Basement Cells

In the Main Gallery, we encounter work exploring themes of healthcare

In the Basement Cells we are confronted with a darker, more unsettling

and motherhood. Lou Baker ’ s uncanny hanging sculptures incorporate

series of installations, with clearer allusions to the fragile boundary be-

hair, baby grows, discarded clothes, zips, fake fur, imitation leather and

tween the interior and exterior body. Sometimes these are darkly humor-

velvet. In their clear nod to bodily form we are reminded of the fragile di-

ous, and at other times extremely uncomfortable to encounter.

vide between the interior and exterior, both physically and psychologically.

Difficult issues are raised, as seen in Baum ’ s FGM, which juxtaposes beautiful stitch work and the horrific subject of Female Genital Mutilation.

Gina Baum ’ s intricate stitched wounds and exquisite porcelain forms

Baum also looks at scarring through works including Cicatrix and Conta-

explore attitudes toward healthcare and the imperfections of the body.

gion; the latter comprising of forty-one delicately rendered wounds,

Her previous profession as a nurse informs much of this practice, which

spreading like a rash throughout the end interrogation room.

frequently incorporates muslin and gauze, and confronts the viewer with nauseating wounds and familiar bodily surfaces. Through the centre of

Baker presents the sinister, alien-like forms of her Other series, which

the plinth, Baum ’ s Indignity Bottles consider the implications of old age

are characterised by fleshy material and bright red innards. Her most re-

as dependence on others increases.

cent work, Parts of Me, explores the physical and psychological divide

between the public and private through soft felted sculptures, which are Also in the Main Gallery, the artists use stitch and porcelain to explore

at once tangible and uncannily organ-like.

body image and the body ’ s connection to the natural landscape.

Baker ’ s Body Image I and Body Image II give viewers the opportunity to consider their relationship with their own body, and their body ’ s relationship with its surroundings.

In the Victorian Cells, which are quietly hidden away to the left of the basement ’ s entrance, the artists transform the spaces in small yet impactful ways; adding to the eclectic selection of objects and artefacts already stored there.

Gallery Guide: Basement Cells: Interactive Installations Having encountered this collection of beautiful yet unnerving artworks, the viewer is encouraged to reflect on what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable, in a participatory installation named comfort/discomfort,

which will be added to and transformed throughout the exhibition. An additional interactive element can be found in the interrogation room adjoining the comfort/discomfort installation. The work in this space gives

visitors the opportunity to feel the surfaces created by Baum and Baker.

Gallery Guide: Foyer and Stairwell In the most public of Town Hall Arts ’ spaces the artists show work exploring some of the most private of subject matters. Lou Baker ’ s All the

babies I might have had hangs majestically over the stairwell; a confes-

Gina Baum For Gina Baum, caring and creating are inseparable. Combining the skills and experience acquired as a practice nurse and as a maker, she explores her chosen materials while reflecting on imperfections, issues and attitudes. Baum creates conversations around health and ill health in a continually changing world. Baum works with both ceramics and stitch, and sometimes combines the two. Her unusual, fragile, porcelain sculptures reflect bodily form and surface and challenge the viewer ’ s understanding of vulnerability and trust. The contrast between the hard, fired porcelain and the soft, gestural stitches is poignant. In her textile work, Baum uses muslin to represent skin. Being similar to medical gauze, it lays over, next to and follows the contours of the body. The stained muslin is manipulated, and the loose weave held with Baum ’ s distinctive stitch. For Baum, making is a different way of thinking, a way of researching through practice. Her process involves a healthy balance between experimentation, scrutiny, intuition, frustration, problem solving and eventual realisation. This cycle feeds back into her creative practice, driving her to explore further.

sional womblike web of anxiety. Outside the Main Gallery, Gina Baum ’ s

Tools of my trade, a series of hand cast and hand painted porcelain speculums, hangs in a formerly vacant display cabinet. Surprising works by the artists can also be found in the entrance foyer; including delicate gauze-inspired drawings by Baum, and a spectacular garment of cuddly toys by Baker. This space will be further transformed after visitors are given the opportunity to make their own “ subversive surfaces ” on 30 June 2018.

Website: Instagram: @gina _baum _ snakeholestudio

Lou Baker Attraction and repulsion, horror and hilarity; creating an uneasy tension in aesthetics, Lou Baker ’ s soft sculptures challenge the benign nature of traditional textile processes and provoke a range of conflicting responses. Using knitting and stitch, she explores the transformation of materials and the sculptural and mark-making potential of stitch. Her work subverts conventional representations of the body, forging intellectual connections between material, process and concept. She makes public things that are normally private. For Baker too, making is another way of thinking. It ’ s also a meditation; many of the techniques she uses are labour intensive and repetitive, inducing a state of reflective timelessness which creates a profound sense of wellbeing. She ’ s led by her materials, and the change in control brought about by processes of alchemy, such as felting and firing, are critical to her practice. As well as being a maker she ’ s also a facilitator, as, increasingly, some aspects of her practice focus on social engagement. Instigating conversations with her audience, she facilitates opportunities for the viewer to become an active participant, to find a voice. Website: Twitte r, Instagram and Facebook @loubakerartist

Gina Baum and Lou Baker both recently graduated with First Class Honours from the Drawing and Applied Arts degree at the University of the West of England ( UWE ) , Bristol. Baum is now studying an MA in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Arts, London. She has won several awards: the RWA sculpture prize, Pangolin Editions ( 2017 ) ,Highly Commended Tin Award by the Wor-

shipful Company of Tin Plate Workers ( 2 018 ) and the Runners up prize for Design in Healthcare from Innovation RCA and the Royal Society of Medicine ( 2018 ) . Baker works full-time as an artist. She was awarded The Embroiderers ’ Guild Scholarship for 2015-16.

comfort/discomfort Gina Baum and Lou Baker often tread the line between comfort and discomfort in Subversive Surfaces; presenting us with work that is at times welcoming and humorous, yet revealing and confrontational. As part of the exhibition, the artists invite you to consider what makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable, by adding to a participatory work in the cells. Write on the labels and choose pieces of cloth to add to the installation in the Basement Cells. With every interaction the installation will be changed, and by the end of the exhibition the space will be transformed.

A Collaboration Saturday 30 June 2018, 10am-2pm

Work alongside the artists, Gina Baum and Lou Baker, as they make subversive surfaces with paper clay and textiles, and help create a collaborative art work which will then become part of the exhibition. Being led by the materials, participants can experiment with sculpting, weaving, stitching, wrapping, plaiting and other processes. Bring your imagination and come and play! Everyone is welcome, but children must be supervised by a responsible adult, please. This free, drop-in session will take place in Town Hall Arts ’ entrance lobby. Come along any time between 10am and 2pm!

List of Works: Main Gallery Gina Baum, National Health NFS Gina Baum, Working Woman £250 Gina Baum, Crossed £200 Gina Baum, Wounds ( Various ) POA Gina Baum, Take Care I NFS Gina Baum, Take Care II NFS Gina Baum, A Mother ’ s Love I NFS Gina Baum, A Mother ’ s Love II NFS Gina Baum, Topography of Tin £200 Gina Baum, Beached £150 Gina Baum, Untitled £100 Gina Baum, Indignity Bottles £120 each Gina Baum, Prem NFS Gina Baum, Porcelain Skin NFS Gina Baum, Skin ( Various ) POA Gina Baum, Scrapes £30 each Gina Baum, Adam and Eve £150 Gina Baum, Untitled NFS Gina Baum, Untitled NFS Gina Baum, Laid Open £120 Gina Baum, Ripped NFS Lou Baker, Nobody I POA Lou Baker, Other I POA Lou Baker, The whole is greater than the sum of the parts POA Lou Baker, All the babies I might have had II POA Lou Baker, Seascape I £400 Lou Baker, Seascape II £400 Lou Baker, Seascape III £400 Lou Baker, Over the hills POA Lou Baker, The parts I ’ d like to remove POA Lou Baker, Body Image I £150 Lou Baker, Body Image II £120 Lou Baker, Pharmacopoeia POA

List of Works: Basement Cells Gina Baum, Folio I, II & III Gina Baum, Dermis I & II Gina Baum, Cysts Gina Baum, FGM Gina Baum, Cut Gina Baum, Untitled ( Porcelain ) Gina Baum, Single Pods Gina Baum, Foetal Form Gina Baum, Cicatrix I, II and III Gina Baum, “ Bertha ” The New Size 12 Gina Baum, Self Portrait Gina Baum, Double Pods Gina Baum, Scabs and Scars Gina Baum, Contagion Gina Baum, Untitled ( Porcelain ) Lou Baker, Social Network Lou Baker, My imaginary friend Lou Baker, Nobody III Lou Baker, Other IV Lou Baker, Other V Lou Baker, Heart of Darkness Lou Baker, All the babies sketchbook Lou Baker, The parts I ’ d like to remove sketchbook Lou Baker, Parts of Me

List of Works: Foyer and Stairwell £40 each £60 each POA £400 NFS POA POA £300 £300 each NFS NFS £30 each NFS NFS NFS POA POA POA POA POA POA POA POA POA

Gina Baum, Tools of my trade Gina Baum, White on Black I , II & III Lou Baker, All the babies I might have had II Lou Baker, Other III Lou Baker, No animals have been harmed in the making of

this garment Lou Baker, Other III ( Wearing the unwearable ) Lou Baker, Nobody III ( Wearing the unwearable )


£200 £200