Arts / Exhibition keeps Baker’s legacy alive

‘Pandora’s Box I’ by Bob Baker, 2007

WHEN any artist departs this world, questions always arise about his or her legacy and what will become of the art that remains behind.

In the case of the late painter, Bob Baker, who died at his studio and home in Bodalla earlier this year, the very nature of his work demands immediate attention.

Baker with ‘Ice cream queen’. Photo by Heide Smith

At the time of his death, Baker, a solitary artist with a unique focus exploring the fundamental scientific principles of the universe, was beginning to garner national attention.

With this in mind, his widow Pat, his friend of 20 years author Robert Macklin, curator Charis Tyrrel and gallery owner Valerie Faber, have embarked on a project designed to preserve both the memory and the substance of his work.

As well as the exhibition, Macklin and Faber have set up a more permanent website gallery with 15 additional works on show, to encourage viewing and purchase of paintings personally selected by Macklin. Reports are in of solid sales from the opening weekend, but expectations are that the website, now live, will result in further sales.

Baker first came to ”CityNews’” attention in March 2013 when his exhibition looking at the discoveries of quantum physics and astronomy open at the CSIRO discovery centre before an audience of scientist and astronomers. Paintings and small sculptures represented Newton’s law of universal gravitation, String Theory, e=mc2, the fifth dimension, Schrodinger’s Cat and the so-called “God” particle, Higgs’ Boson.

At the time Macklin told guests at the CSIRO that Baker had “single-handedly shown that the worlds of art and of science are not strangers”.

“CityNews” has been following Baker ever since, and in 2014 reported on an idiosyncratic reworking of Picasso’s 1907 cubist work “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, complete with visual references to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Frustratingly for his supporters, who feared that his real worth was not fully appreciated, Baker was an individualist, a true traveller of the mind and seemingly oblivious at times to the practicalities of establishing a commercially viable art career. He painted “with little or no care for the wealth and fame that he so richly deserved,” Macklin said.

Even as visitors from the National Gallery of Australia and the University of Melbourne came to view his works, he was turning to new subjects, equally playful but far away from the Big Bang and black holes. A portrait by Heide Smith of Baker shot in his studio with his 2016 work “Ice Cream Queen” shows this venture into more light-hearted subjects.

Bob Baker’s ‘Object of Unknown Origin II,’ oil on board

But delightfully quirky as those works are, there is no denying the scientific focus of most paintings showing – “Grand Unified Theory”, “Sci-Fi Artificial Planet” and “A Venture Into Physics Hip Hop Particles”, which was painted not long before his death.

“I named him the ‘time lord’ as he talked about the dimensions,” Macklin said at the opening while describing Baker’s need to articulate deeper thoughts.

The exhibition now on show is in Gallery Bodalla, the old post office gallery.

Bob Baker, “Homage to Isaac Newton,” oil on canvas

“CityNews” was in attendance last weekend when a lively crowd of Baker fans, many of whom already owned works by the late artist, crowded in to remember this single minded creator whose most productive period had been spent so far from Sydney and Melbourne.

That’s a problem in our city centric art world.

Baker was never a nonentity. The youngest British artist even admitted to the British Arts Society he spent many years in France and Spain exploring his art before migrating to Australia in 1972, first establishing the Camden Art Society and in the ’90s moving to Bodalla.

It is to be hoped that this exhibition and website serve to give his considerable body of work the national profile that it deserves.

“BOB Baker – A Life in Art”, Gallery Bodalla, 66A Princes highway, until Sunday, October 28, Thursday to Sunday, 10.30am-4pm or by appointment to 0421 238174. The online exhibition and sale is at gallerybodalla.com.au/bobbaker

 

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