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Jonathan Baldock: ‘We Are Flowers of One Garden’

  • Art
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Jonathan Baldock
Mark Blower

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

You should always talk to flowers. Not to help them grow or anything, but because they might just talk back. 

The flowers in Jonathan Baldock’s new exhibition are more likely to do that than most, because they’re not just plants, they’re almost human. His installation is filled with ceramic sunflowers and pots and petals. Mouths and eyes and hands appear out of the pistils and stems, grasping fingers, wagging tongues, flapping lips. They’re sunny, obscene, funny, weird things. 

But they’re not surreal for surrealism’s sake. Baldock’s hybrid human/flower garden is a tribute to his mother, who didn’t just raise him, but taught him many of the crafts he uses in his art now. Across all the technicolour vegetation of the exhibition, you get to follow the ups and downs, annoyances and loves of a mother-son relationship, the closeness, the tenderness, the tension. In the back gallery, a giant sunflower – the mother to all the smaller ones in the show, maybe – peers out of the wall, its roots flopping all over the floor, its eyes bulging and intense, always there, always watching, like a mother is supposed to do. 

With his work’s folk-y, handmade quality mixing with contemporary aesthetics and his tenderly personal approach, Baldock proves that art doesn’t always have to be about big concepts of beauty or grief, or about subverting the gaze or questioning the nature of looking or any of that bollocks. Sometimes it can just be about how much you love your mum.

I’ve never been massively taken with Baldock’s work, but this is the best I’ve ever seen him. The work is clean, beautifully made, clever, attractive. It’s a genuinely moving, deeply lovely and hugely affecting exhibition. It’s the garden as a parable for familial love, for kinship, for letting relationships bud and bloom, even when they’re covered in manure. And more than anything, it made me really miss my mum. 

Eddy Frankel
Written by
Eddy Frankel


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