Artist in Focus - Gerry Baptist
Gerry Baptist’s paintings convey an immediate frisson; he creates landscape and figure studies in vibrant colour possessing a natural talent for composition. His paintings are startling in their effectiveness, having a clarity, vivaciousness coupled with a powerful vision.
Born in India in 1935 of British/Portuguese parents, Baptist’s artistic education began at home; his father a musician, writer and artist, his mother, drawn to nature. Baptist likely gets his insatiable curiosity in life from his bohemian upbringing.
“Our home was just a chaos of music, books and art - it was like living in a wild flower garden where everything was allowed to thrive.”
Later, the family moved to England, where he finished schooling before studying painting and graphics at Walthamstow School of Art and The London College of Printing and Graphic Art, eventually joining an advertising agency as an Art Director. Throughout this time his love of painting continued- after working he often created large scale abstracts well into the night.
His inquiring mind led Baptist to be an early adopter of digital technology, it permitted a new freedom, something he relished. He was drawn to the art of those that forged their own paths, such as Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston and Pablo Picasso. He marries influences from Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and even Graphic Art and Comics into his work. Colour and excitement pour out of his paintings with a cheerful brilliance and perhaps an unconscious link with his early years in India or simply an attraction to the joy and colour he finds around him on a daily basis.
His garden landscapes, a vibrant celebration of the good and the beautiful, touch on the more pressing topic of what we could lose if we do not care for the Earth. His figurative work also address the big issues, exploring greed, consumerism and morality. Masterful in his approach to producing joyful, indulgent and mesmerising pieces, Baptist challenges the status quo and, ultimately, the viewer.
For someone discovering your work for the first time, can you paint them a picture of your background?
My Father illustrated and wrote articles for magazines and played piano in an amateur dance band- he advised me when I was a child India to: ‘Find something you can do, which you love - you’ll have a lifetime of enjoyment.’ I took the advice.
How did you learn your craft?
Through a sort of osmosis in my parent’s home. It was where I learned to be curious, to take chances, to learn from your mistakes and to work as hard as you can. I continued leaning my craft at school where from the age of 13, art was my main subject and then Art School - I’m still learning.
What are the main themes behind your work?
The beauty of the world and how we could lose it all if we, and governments, don’t do something rapidly about climate change.
What is fundamental to your work?
There’s a spiritual side to any creative work that needs to be sustained and nurtured all the time. And to believe in those thoughts that come from the subconscious.
Who have been your biggest influences in your career? Artist or otherwise.
Picasso for the energetic way he constantly changed direction and continually re-invented art. The artists in the DaDa movement for their anarchic attitude to art. My family who have always been supportive.
If you could spend the day with one artist - dead or alive - who would it be?
It would be extraordinary to have a day watching Michelangelo painting just a small part of the Sistine Chapel.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Andy Warhol said that when he finishes a piece of work, he just gets on with the next. ‘I let others decide whether it is good or bad’.
If you were not an artist, what do you think you would be?
I’d go back to my design days and work on developing environmentally useful products.