Much of this latest collection of work by Charlie Baird is inspired by visits to some of the furthest points of the British Isles - the Outer Hebrides, Cornwall, Pembrokeshire, as well as the more familiar landmarks of Dorset. Taken from distilled memories of place and time, they aim to capture certain atmospheres and moods of a landscape, revealed with both figurative and more abstracted images.
Although sketches are often made in situ, the bulk of work is gestated in the studio, allowing tangents in colour and composition to occur, whilst working to retain the initial response to a landscape at a particular moment.
Drawing from a variety of sources, Charlie uses different media to convey the atmosphere of a landscape or a situation, the distillation of a moment which weaves both figurative and abstract elements into one picture. Accidents, tangents, and the coincidental are important paths to new and fresh ideas in his paintings, as he describes: “only later will I focus on giving the image a more coherent key and it will either fall apart - they quite often do! - or take on its own character and composition”.
Referencing memories of place, time, and light, they range from the figurative to a more abstracted sense of mood through texture and composition. When painting, he often starts with a reduced palette, enjoying “the use of colour near-opposites and the gradations of tone and colour that can occur in between”, using this to echo the oppositions and confluences in the observed subject. He paints with a great range of colour – a particularly English, sometimes muted palette – but with a warmth that shows a true understanding of light, for example, when he captures the glow of late summer.
Whether translating the fleeting light of a landscape or exploring the history beneath its surface, these pieces conjure up their own internalised lyrical balance. They are often complex, with layers of meaning, as with his painting Scratching the Surface, which “alludes both to some of the techniques used – scratching into paint and layering back on and also to some of the more abstract work which relates to the history of our landscape and the traces left by the past, fields, hedges, walls, buildings.”.
Baird’s creative process is marked by mutability – what starts out as a still life can elide into a landscape, and vice versa, moved by a spark of interest or a hook from within the work. Often leaving the pieces and coming back to them some time later, they can evolve, perhaps moved by inspiration or chance. Each time, he captures not the representation of a thing but its true character, an intrinsic and beguiling essence.
India Lewis, 2020
Born in Nairn, Scotland in 1955, Charlie Baird studied at the Instituto Allende, San Miguel, Mexico and Wimbledon School of Art, London. From 1983-85 he attended the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. Since his first solo exhibition at the Crane Kalman Gallery in 1977, he has had solo exhibitions in London, Europe and America. Since 2006, Charlie has had five solo shows at The Art Stable.