There’s something at once fresh and comfortingly familiar about the subject matter of John Baird’s upcoming solo show at Arthouse Gallery. The Mornington Peninsula-based artist’s distinctive style and technique is in full swing in this elegant body of work, which feels both contemporary and classical. Much art references other art, and the veteran painter and sculptor, whose work is held in the National Gallery of Victoria, is the first to embrace this nostalgic notion.
“When I’m painting, I’m generally rummaging around in some back drawer in my head... I’ve looked at a lot of other people’s paintings, read a lot and of course taken some notice of what I’m painting myself. The process is a kind of spying on one’s self. I don’t concentrate on specific memories or known images but more or less allow these things to bubble up and be part of what I’m doing.”
Baird explores the interior landscape of domestic life and the slippage between utilitarianism and decoration. The comfortable chair, the dressing table or the floral arrangement are elevated from the commonplace.
Outdoor scenes are glimpsed in this show as well: Children play in leafy trees and boats are glimpsed on the horizon.
Says Baird, “A painting for me can be ‘let go’ when it gets beyond what I know I can do and heads toward what I hope I can do, or in the end, simply when the picture brings me enough pleasure to believe in it. There is perhaps an allegory in the form of a coded diary lurking behind the surface. All imagery is part of a bigger story.”