My artistic process is a battle between the brain and the hand, an opposition between cerebral and instinctive creativity. In the creation of drawings and paintings, I harness the internal tension resulting from a desire to exert control and my tendency toward uninhibited expression. Although I could never turn my back on my art training, and would not wish to do so, there is a kind of unlearning to my process which results in a complex interplay between the forces of control and abandon in my mark making and colour choices. In quick succession shapes are rapidly created and destroyed, as I repeatedly recreate areas of the work in a succession of layers. When I step back (or sit back from a drawing), I slow down and see the direction of the dialogue, the composition, and other elements of the work, thus gaining control through the thoughtful analysis of my unconstrained creativity.
The visual language evolving from this creative process is a flexible vehicle for the expression of elements which fuel my artistic impulses, and the formative influences behind my work. Inherent in my visual dialogue is a fascination with the inner workings of things, and the portrayal of that which lies beneath the outer façade. Computer circuits boards, the anatomy of the human body, peeled back industrial complexes and urban landscapes, and tunneling anthills are seen in the abstract expressionism of paint, pencil, and pastel. The appeal of hidden complexity has been present since my youth. Hours staring at encyclopedia cut-away drawings of submarines and engines revealed a seemingly chaotic mishmash of shapes and colours. Despite the superficial confusion, it became apparent to me that every path, block, and wire/artery was integral to function and intentionally placed. Still spurred by this fascination, I perpetually observe and ingest these internal patterns. As I reinterpret them in my drawings and paintings, I strive for a synthesis between raw, chaotic intensity and the control of artistic purpose and training.
Another crucial facet of my creative language is the influence of the works which captured my young imagination. My initial exposure to art through the super heroes and science fiction characters of comic books fueled my desire to draw. Honing my skills at character rendering, I ambitiously imagined a future as a great animator and creator of pop culture phenomena. During my post-secondary art training, abstraction temporarily supplanted illustration as the allure of new influences altered my perspective. While I once percieved a conflict between “fine art” and science fiction, these two opposing elements find themselves reconciled in my contemporary paintings and drawings. Rather than pitting science fiction illustration against my formal training, I combine abstract expressionist stylings with the ideas and mythologies of my formative years. By unifying these diverse sensibilties through the subtle rendering of imagination and wonder in an abstract swirl of color and shape, I give credence to my youth while recognizing the indelible nature of my formal training.
Tony Baker received his BFA in painting from the University of Alberta and has been practicing in Edmonton for about 10 years. Baker founded his career on numerous shows in the cafes, bars, salons and galleries around Edmonton, and in 2001 had his “Resolutions” show in the Kitchen room of the Edmonton Art Gallery. In 2004 he became a member of ArtsHab1, an artist live/work studio collective, and played an increasingly active role in the festivals and fundraisers of the arts community in Edmonton. In late 2004 he was invited back to the Edmonton Art Gallery, now the Art Gallery of Alberta, in a show named “Draw” featuring prominent Edmontonian artists in various stages of their careers. He began to be represented in Edmonton by the Front Gallery in 2005, and in early 2006 he received a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for his project, “The Expanse”. Upon the project’s completion, and after a brief stint as a board member for Latitude53 artist-run gallery, he moved to Toronto and was in the Queen West Art Crawl, where he managed to cover his costs.
What is your artwork about (underlying concept, focus, themes, intent, etc)?
abandoned cities in another universe, factions warring themselves to exhaustion, the good people trying to get by surrounded by chaos, sneaking around in alleys and streets at night, sticking to the shadows.
What informs your artwork or what are your influences?
escapism, children’s art, abstract-expressionism, sci-fi
What matters to you most about the work that you do?
I have to like it.
Do you feel you need to position your work within the context of art history and if so what's your take on that?
I actually wish I was clever enough to answer this one. I think I would position myself in New York after the war, I’m a twice decorated paratrooper and everybody buys my art. I have a group of artist pals (who aren’t wankers) that I have a weekly breakfast with and when the apocalypse comes I find a way to live forever and wander the Earth for all time.
Is there a trigger or a starting point for each piece?
I have to drop into a state of absent-minded doodling
How has your work evolved over the last five years?
I have become a more varied and competent doodler
What is currently the central motivation for or conceptual concern in your work?
Abandoned cities. Alien character development. Making a living.
How does your physical/geographical environment inform the work you do?
I’m always poor so I’m better at my drawings than my paintings, because I can do many many drawings. If I had a big studio where I could store many paintings and have lots of panels, I would be a much stronger painter. That’s my excuse anyway.
What mediums, techniques, or processes are involved in your art making (and why these)?
Acrylic paint, because it dries fast (sometimes not fast enough), oil pastel, because it draws nicely over acrylic paint, pencil crayons, because they draw nicely over paper and acrylic paint, all kinds of pens and felt pens, because each make a unique mark and color.
What are your other passions in life and how have these influenced your work?
I love music and making music. I make songs that I’d want to listen to while I paint and I made a soundtrack for one of my projects.
Why are you an artist?
It’s pretty fun. Jobs drive me absolutely bonkers.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts, Art and Design, major in painting, University of Alberta
||Wax and Wood
||Drawings on record covers and records, Six Shooter Gallery, Toronto ON
||New paintings, drawings and music, final show for Alberta Foundation for the Arts project, solo show at Latitude53, Edmonton AB
||New paintings and drawings, second show for the Expanse AFA project, The Front Gallery, Edmonton AB
||New paintings and drawings, first show for the Expanse Alberta Foundation for the Arts project, Café Mosaics, Edmonton AB
||All about Line
||Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition Program, curated by Fiona Connell, Art Gallery of Alberta (2006 - 2008)
||Anthony Baker, An Exhibition of New Work
||Solo show featuring a collection of new paintings and drawings, Front Gallery, Edmonton AB
||Menagerie: A Show of Monster and Robot Art
||Group drawing show revolving around depictions of creatures of the imagination, United Congress, Calgary AB
||Myriad, 9th Annual Membership Exhibition
||Group show featuring a selection of pieces created by various members of Profiles Public Art Gallery, Profiles Public Art Gallery, St. Albert AB
||It’s F***ing Hot
||Group exhibition showcasing works by the residents of Edmonton’s Arts Habitat, Works Art and Design Festival/ ArtsHab Studio Gallery, Edmonton AB
||The Apple Show
||A group show featuring interpretations of the apple created by various artists, designers, photographers, and illustrators, Uppercase Gallery, Books & Papergoods, Calgary AB
||Group show featuring paintings and drawings, including abstract collaborations with fellow ArtsHab resident Tim Rechner, Urban Roots, Edmonton AB
||ArtsHab Artists Group Show
||A collection of new works by the residents of Edmonton’s ArtsHab One, presented in the ArtsHab Studio Gallery, Arts Habitat, Edmonton AB
||Tony Baker, New Drawings
||A new series of 101 new 8 1/2 x 11” drawings. Café Mosaics, Edmonton AB
||Group exhibition featuring the works of artists in various stages of their careers who draw, curated by Marna Burnell. Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton AB
||The Scary Ball
||Displaying the works of ArtsHab residents, as part of a one-night-only fundraiser for the Arts Habitat Association, Paramount Theater, Edmonton AB
||New Alberta Abstractionists
||An exhibition of contemporary abstract artists, curated by Tim Rechner, The Works Art and Design Festival, Edmonton AB
||ArtsHab in Heat
||A presentation of the works of the residents of Edmonton’s ArtsHab, and part of The Works Art and Design Festival, ArtsHab Studio Gallery, Edmonton AB
||ACBaker: New Art, New Music
||Featuring a series of 89 new drawings, new paintings and new music, Café Mosaics, Edmonton AB
||New Tony Drawings
||80 drawing show, Café Mosaics, Edmonton AB
||Solo show of new paintings, Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton AB
||Group exhibtion of 2 works by 10 different artists in different mediums, Victoria Composite High School, Edmonton AB
||101 new drawings, Café Mosiacs, Edmonton AB
||Series of new large works, Remedy Café, Edmonton AB
||Solo show of new paintings and drawings, Harcourt House, Edmonton AB
||7 Men who Paint
||Group exhibition with the Works Art and Design Festival, Rigaletto’s, Edmonton AB
||New paintings, drawings and installation, Phillips Building studio exhibition/gala, Edmonton AB
||Carter and the Seabugs
||New paintings and series of 50 drawings, Back Room Vodka Bar, Edmonton AB
||Series of new portrait studies, Café Mosaics, Edmonton AB
||A Small Event
||Duo show of drawings and paintings with Tandie McLeod, Café Mosaics, Edmonton AB
GRANTS AND HONOURS
- Projects Visual Arts Grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, 2006
- Received mention by Edmonton journalist Christa O’Keefe as number two of her Top Ten Art Shows of 2005 in the article “Looked Upon Fondly: A Completely Subjective Visual Art Top Ten”, SEE Magazine, Edmonton AB, 2006
- Official Acquisition for the Provincial Art Collection by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts - Selected through slide submission and application, 2004
- Investors Group Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Painting, 1996
PARTICIPATION IN FUNDRAISING EXHIBITIONS
- “The Art of Caring” - Silent auction in support of Gilda’s Club, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto ON 2006
- “Art on the Block” - Art auction in support of the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton AB, 2006
- “Fine Art of Schmoozy” - Donated work for Latitude’s annual visual arts group exhibition and silent auction fundraiser, Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture Edmonton AB, 2005
- “53 Ways to Leave Your Lover” - Valentines Day Themed Silent Auction and Fundraiser featuring various artists, Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture, Edmonton AB, 2004
- “Doctors Without Borders Fundraiser” - Donated a set of 8 ½ x 11” mixed media drawings for the silent auction/group exhibition element of a multi-faceted fundraiser to raise money and awareness for Doctors Without borders, New City Likwid Lounge, Edmonton AB, 2002
- “Fine Art of Schmoozy” - Donated work for Latitude’s annual visual arts group exhibition and silent auction fundraiser, Latitude 53, Edmonton AB, 2001
SELECTED MEDIA ARTICLES
- “Alien Nations”, Christa O’Keefe, SEE Magazine, Edmonton AB, 2006
- “Looked Upon Fondly: A Completely Subjective Visual Art Top Ten”, Christa O’Keefe, SEE Magazine Edmonton AB, 2006
- “Another World: The Fabulous Meta-Universe of Tony Baker”, Christa O’Keefe, SEE Magazine, Edmonton AB, 2005
- “Abstract Expressionism Meets Spaceship Aliens”, Mari Sasano, Edmonton Journal, Edmonton AB, 2005
- “Leaving Behind His Abstract Roots”, Gilbert Bouchard, The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton AB, 2005
- “So Happy Together”, Agnieszka Matejko, Vue Magazine, Edmonton AB, 2005
- “Edmonton Band is Swweeet”, Fish Grikowsky, The Edmonton Sun, Edmonton AB, 2005
- “Party for Your Right to Get Arty”, Zoltan Varadi, SEE Magazine, Edmonton AB, 2004
- “New Alberta Abstractions”, Gilbert Bouchard, The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton AB, 2004
- “Artwork Goes Well With Café Fare”, Gilbert Bouchard, The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton AB, 2003
- “Cultural Worker”, Fish Grikowsky, This Magazine, Toronto ON, 2002
- “Artist Draws Inspiration From Urban Life”, Gilbert Bouchard, The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton AB, 2002
- “Give Them the Works”, Gilbert Bouchard, The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton AB, 2001
- “Baker Aspires to Immaturity in Coastal Life”, Fish Grikowsky, SEE magazine, Edmonton AB, 2000
- “Substance Beyond Shock Factor”, Charles Mandel, The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton AB, 2000
OTHER CREATIVE PURSUITS
- Sole member of Cinema, my on-going solo recording project (1997 - present)
- Multiple instruments, Little Baby Cupcakes (2000 - 2006)
- Bass Guitarist, Columbus (2004 - 2006)
- Bass Guitarist, Stirling (2002 - 2004)
- Board Member: Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture, Society of Artists - Edmonton, AB (2005 -2006)
- Resident/Member: ArtsHab Studio/Living space, Edmonton, AB (2004 - 2006)
- Member: Art Gallery of Alberta - Edmonton, AB (2005 - Present)
- Member: Profiles Public Art Gallery - St. Albert, AB (2005 - Present)
- Gallery Artist: Front Gallery - Edmonton, AB (2005 - Present)