Whitehot Magazine

November 2008, Charming Baker and Sam Branton @ Signal Gallery

November 2008, Charming Baker and Sam Branton @ Signal Gallery
Charming Baker, courtesy Signal Gallery

Charming Baker and Sam Branton

Faux Pas De Deux

Signal Gallery

Through September 2008

While you may struggle to decide whether Faux Pas De Deux is kitsch, grotesque or simply playful it can definitely be described as unsettling. Both Charming Baker and Sam Branton subvert common depictions to challenge our preconceptions with unusual presentations of well known images.

These two artists have wildly different styles; Branton’s drawings are highly detailed and reminiscent of 19th century etchings in both style and most of the content while Baker’s painting technique is far more tonal and strays from traditional rules of composition; placing a panda on a densely patterned background or a crucifix on what looks like 80’s wallpaper, yet both seem to disorientate the viewer in a similar way. Walking through the gallery, you appreciate the juxtaposition of styles since both are jarring, but put together they seem to complete each other as any well curated exhibition should do.

Branton’s drawings are infused with Dadaist influences which conflict wonderfully with the strict style of his drawings. They are somewhat reminiscent of Banksy’s work but retain Branton’s trademark quirkiness. His highly detailed style disguises the strangeness of the scenes for a moment; at first only the heads seem out of place, but then other details seem to appear, such as the intestines in the background of The Dreamer’s Daughter or the caged creature in The Dreamer. After this discovery, the continuity of the images becomes apparent – for example, the creature in The Dreamer is the same one that his daughter is playing with in another drawing. This series is perfectly planned and executed.

The continuity of Baker’s work is more obvious as it manifests itself in background patterns and colours, which seem friendly at first. The titles of the paintings as are satirical as the works themselves; occasionally controversial (I’m sure many Christians would be somewhat upset by Crucifixation – Some People Might Think You Look Ridiculous) and others are just amusing in almost a childish way, as the phallic aircraft displayed in Forms That Don’t Lend Themselves To Intimacy can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Others, such as Group Shot are less amusing, where Baker used an airgun to create holes in the canvas to depict the children’s faces.

The struggle between playful and profound is exactly what makes this collection so successful, paired with the variety of styles it makes the collection thought provoking, not just aesthetically pleasing.

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Valeria Kogan

Valeria is a writer, artist and student who splits her time between London, Oxford and North Wales.

view all articles from this author