Russell Baker was born in Lancaster in 1958. He graduated from the Slade School of Art and has worked in London, New York & Florence. After many years of collecting Soviet Art he created the specialist dealership, the Baker Mamonova Gallery. The exhibition features a collection of 16 paintings of icebergs that are part of a series the artist began 10 years ago.
THE LARGEST recorded iceberg was the size of Belgium; another was the height of a 55 storey building. Small wonder then that they have a sense of the awesome and mysterious, a sense of belonging to a place that is beyond our reach. Russell Baker’s iceberg studies convey this otherworldliness but at the same time exude a forceful presence. When Baker talks about his work, he describes a deep rooted sculptural memory – an abiding fascination with certain blunt shapes and clearly defined forms which he has chosen to represent not in sculpture but condensed and flattened into the icebergs and snow shelves seen in his paintings.
Russell Baker’s work sits within the context of fellow artists of far northern landscapes, Alexander Borisov (1866-1934), Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) and Andrey Yakovlev. He is also struck by the powerful nostalgia of Tacita Dean’s found images. Baker has travelled to Canada and Northern Russia but his iceberg paintings do not depict a specific landscape. They are instead informed and inspired by a vast store of photographic, filmic and dream images charting a lifelong fascination with the inky seas and frozen landscapes of the far north; a dormant sensibility, which has evolved and developed throughout his life since childhood. Baker started this series of iceberg paintings about 10 years ago and an engagement with his audience leads him to believe that his own sense of affinity with these sublime and awe-inspiring landscapes taps into a wider sense of wonder, the quintessentially abstract nature of icebound landscapes perhaps allowing a freedom of painterly expression; a geological template where the shapes of the subconscious can be assembled, orchestrated, allowed to float to the surface. These paintings represent a journey through the physical manipulation of paint, through layers of perception and substance to harness the allure of remoteness, depth and distance and bring it into focus.
(From Russell Baker, A Journey into the Abstract by Helen Samuels)