Jon Baker, Fine Art (BA Hons) from Chelsea College of Arts, has just been shortlisted as a finalist for the Catlin Prize 2015. He is one of five finalists to be selected from an original forty artists, of which ten were UAL alumni. We are delighted for Jon, and look forward to seeing more from him at the upcoming Catlin Art Prize exhibition, from 8 – 30 May at the Londonewcastle Project Space in London…
How did you end up studying BA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts?
Before I went to Chelsea I did lots of different things. I worked as a commercial photographer for the BBC and a number of different magazines. It was a trade, a way to make money, a good way to make money, but I was bored. I wanted to get away from it, be around people doing things, like performance art, sculpture, videos. I wanted to have interesting conversations and to learn something; That was the main reason for me wanting to study at Chelsea.
I looked at all the art colleges, read all the prospectuses, and went to the open days. I chose Chelsea because to me it seemed to be the most straightforward. I didn’t find it pretentious, it wasn’t selling a lifestyle, but an opportunity to learn. It felt like a very modern place of learning.
Did Chelsea live up to your expectations?
Chelsea taught me how to read properly – I gained the skills to really read a piece of text/article, to analyse it, contextualise it and then to talk about it. Studying there gave my work perspective, it helped me find my way, and gave my art a context. Without Chelsea I would just be a guy doing weird stuff – but the course gave me an excuse to do this weird stuff. People took me seriously.
The attendance to the final show at Chelsea of people who are extremely influential, and beneficial was extremely high. It is a really well thought of show. The exposure to influential people in the industry… I didn’t realise this when I applied, but it was one of the biggest benefits to studying there.
Did you find it harder as a more mature student?
I found studying when I was older much better. I was one of the oldest on the course. I studied photography in Bournemouth when I was nineteen. I worked really hard to get in, and then when I got there all I wanted to do was have fun. I failed, I didn’t necessarily take it that seriously. I was more ready to learn this time round.
Tell us about what you have been up to since graduating including being selected for the Catlin guide, and your project GAPE…
I haven’t stopped working since I graduated. I’ve exhibited at the Exposure 14 award at the Parasol unit, have a show at Photofusion in Brixton, as well as the Catlin Guide. There was a huge momentum from leaving Chelsea because of the way I was pushed there – I have been continually making stuff – I have also been shortlisted for the Catlin Guide top eight for my series Gape, and will be exhibiting in that in May. Justin who curates it has been very supportive and pushes for new work, its been very encouraging.
Where do you work from? Do you have any studio space in London?
I don’t have studio space –I work a lot from my flat (near Old St), and my parents live not too far from me – they let me use their garage as well. I don’t know why people want to separate their space into these different pockets – living, sleeping, working… If I am paying for a flat I want to use it for everything.
Do you have any advice for other Fine Art young graduates?
I have found that there is a real focus on young graduates – this isn’t something I was prepared for when I graduated (even though I’m not that young!). I think you have to be really careful as a fine art graduate – it is hard to know what interest is good and what is bad. A lot of businesses are interested in the work of young graduates and want to be associated, but I am not sure this is necessarily a good thing… if they like the work then they should buy it!
Other than being shortlisted for the Catlin exhibition, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
My show, the Mother’s Medal (Blacked), opened on Thursday 5 February in Brixton, it’s about a medal handed out by the Nazis to German women to encourage them to have babies. If you had twelve children you would get the gold medal. I could talk about it all day, but I would recommend going to the exhibition and seeing for yourself…
In the future I would like to be an artist. Going to Chelsea has changed what I value. I want to carry on not having that fear and attachment to money – and not be driven by money as I was before. I want to make my work regardless of the economic benefit. Once you get away from being driven by money then you can really start to do something interesting…
More information about Fine Art (BA Hons) at Chelsea College of Arts