Catriona G. Baker Artist Statement 2014
Personal narratives drive my interest in perceptual painting and conceptual book arts. Although images of horses and dogs, people’s pets, can be seen as overly sentimental and trite, I seek to capture the personality in animals above and beyond their external representation, that quirky essence that makes them so unique. The book arts follow a more traditional form of story telling, but both bodies of work reflect my intense passion, enthusiasm and personal connection to the subject.
The animal images fluctuate between abstraction and representation. The bold strong marks speak to the strength of horses, and the directness of their personalities. Paint retains drips and transparent washes, appearing as though it is still wet, emphasizing process; charcoal feels immediate, with its urgent fast marks, pushed and pulled into the paper, allowing the drawing to emerge from feel more than sight. These drawings and paintings are abstracted exaggerated caricatures of the animals, the gesture and expression the priority of the piece.
In these portraits I purposefully break compositional and color rules in order to make the image more uncomfortable and off balanced for the viewer. I push the figure right up to the edge of the page, and sometimes through it, to create a less predictable composition, where negative space fights the figure for the same visual plain. I use warm colors for grounds that compete with cools in the animals’ bodies, creating plasticity between figure and ground as they oscillate in space. The use of warmer colors in the ground decreases the visual depth, creating an abstract composition that deliberately contradicts the predictable picture plain. This creates space that feels too small or cramped, emphasizing that the animals’ personality cannot fit in the box or lines of the page.
The book arts evolved as a perfect marriage of my paintings and animations. Symbolism, metaphor and humor address personal triumphs and hurdles such as marriage, divorce, abuse, abandonment, friendship, and suicide. They are universal stories that use the archetypal symbolism of juvenescence to address personal, cultural, and sexual hurdles. The language mimics the rhythm and style of children’s books to help create the age of the narrator. The stories are all interpretations of memory, and the voice is specific to that moment in history.
The medium and style of illustration is selected to support the story. In “Meet the family, a satirical memoir told as fiction” the drawings help tell the story in their child like simplicity and directness, and by referencing toys from childhood such as pop-up books, paper dolls, and board games. In contrast, the symbolism, font and illustrations in “the inheritance of abuse”, support the story by creating a more antiqued feel that speaks of generations and ancestry.
My current work combines the story telling aspects of the books arts with the large animal portraits in a collaborative project with an animator. It is a deconstruction and retelling of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale, using the iconography and symbolism to express aspects of assault.