Brixton’s Photofusion presents Mother’s Metal (blacked), an exhibition of work by photographer Jon Baker. Arts contributor and fellow photographer Petra Gent went along to the private viewing.
Since graduating from Chelsea College of Art, Jon Baker has won the Exposure 14 Award, was selected for the Catlin Guide 2015 and is now enjoying a solo exhibition at Brixton’s Photofusion under the ominous title Mother’s Metal (blacked). Having already investigated his website and read descriptions of his processes, I was really intrigued to see Jon’s work up close.
Mother’s Medal (blacked) is described as ‘exploring themes of both masculinity and sex and how the display of masculinity is used to attract a partner.’ Jon has manipulated objects and images through cross-processing to produce powerfully striking large-scale photos.
The title of the exhibition is taken from a medal awarded to German mothers by the Nazi party for producing children and upholding Nazi ideals. At the private viewing Jon explained to me that this collection is based on the conflict happening around this medal, a conflict which finds parallels in his photography.
The vibrant colours and organic textures within his photos suggest influences from the animal kingdom, with the bright plumage and exhibitionist behaviours of mating rituals clearly referenced. As well as the sheen of jewel-like colours and objects, each photo has a fleshy quality, coupling the earthy with the finely polished.
Each photo invites the viewer to try and define the objects depicted. There are suggestions of brain matter, mother-of-pearl, eyeballs, flies’ heads, internal organs and even sea urchins, yet each image becomes something else entirely. There is a strong aesthetic appeal to the impressively produced prints, but the pornographic nature of these abstract works is also undeniable. The viewer’s openness to such intimate representations is being challenged as they view each photo.
Jon spoke to me during the private viewing about his artistic journey. Having worked in the world of professional photography for some years, he says he made the decision to study fine art in order to pursue a more experimental approach. He tells me he was also keen to be part of a like-minded arts community.
Jon also talked about his choice to use film rather than digital. He’s more familiar with film from his days as a professional photographer, and it ultimately helped to give these photos their distinctive feel. I was compelled to ask Jon what the objects in the photos were, and was gratified to learn that I wasn’t the first to do so. His answer was charming but evasive: “I can’t tell you what they are but I can tell you that they are very small”.
Mother’s Medal (blacked) runs until March 20 at Photofusion on Electric Lane and is free.