Helen Baker: In colour
Helen Baker describes her new paintings as resembling ‘shrunken Bridget Rileys, frayed and left on the wrong wash cycle’. It’s a canny comparison. Where Riley’s op-art pieces were born from a precise structural aesthetic, Baker’s mosaic-like pieces look careworn in comparison. Yet they share with Riley’s work an underlying precision in their grid-like construction. While the blocks and dots with which Baker coats her colour-washed canvases (created while on a residency in Rome) are minimally abstract in their sensibilities, the colours she uses are complementary to and reflective of nature. Each painting feels like an impressionist landscape, as seen after being blinded by the sun, or witnessed in a reflective pool of water.
Baker uses two distinct forms. The first is on a colour-washed canvas, with distinct blocks of colour painted in sequences which echo square bricks being arranged in an ascending structure. Names such as ‘Block’ and ‘Build’ suggest that there’s some kind of architectural representation at work here, albeit arranged in such a way that a mess of colours and styles comes together to create the coherence of a modern urban landscape. Other pieces use far smaller spots of colour to create a dot-matrix effect on the background wash, with the blue and white on black effect of ‘For Pucci’ and the white and greys on red of ‘For Gucci’ creating the rung-out fabric effect Baker described in reference to Riley. These implicitly suggest that Rome’s status as a centre of fashion commerce might not prove as enduring as its architectural history.
Corn Exchange Gallery, Edinburgh, until Thu 23 Jul