The Following is a press release for Jon Baker’s solo show at Somers gallery in London 2022      

“[Mess Packages] are aggressive attacks on the orderly aesthetics of an adult”

Mike Kelley, Minor Histories

‘Mess Package’ is an exhibition of photographic work by Jon Baker, made over the last three years using a room sized, self-built camera. The image is captured directly onto the large sheets of photographic paper that you can see in the exhibition, meaning the works are completely unique. This is a completely chemical process that does not involve digital technology. The sculptural assemblages that Jon captures with the camera change dramatically in colour, scale and detail once photographed. The objects and methods he uses are a way to explore how play in childhood contributes to identity formation, primarily through references to art-making techniques and toy imagery.

The title of the exhibition comes from a category of artwork made by children in art therapy. Coined by Children's psychiatrist Dr Joseph Di Leo, a “Mess Package'' is created through a chaotic process where a child uses as many art materials as possible all at once. For example if they were working with clay, all the available clay would be removed from its pot and thrown to the floor. If paint was nearby all the colours may be poured onto the clay creating a “pie”. Jon is inspired by the haphazard, messy process of creating these artworks, as well as how they look. His photographed assemblages are often made from a “pie” core of plasticine, paint, card and crayon. Embedded in the “Pie” are everyday objects including dental floss, sweets, plants and toys grabbed from his studio.

According to the psychoanalytic theory, Mess Packages are a way for a child to communicate irritation with the therapeutic session and to assert control in a situation where the child perceives themself as having none. 

Another important reference for the works in this exhibition are children’s toys. There are visual clues to ‘Transformer’ models, WWE muscle-men figurines, cute animals and fisher price babies toys. Jon is interested in how toys allow children to act out different fantasies and construct their identities. The finger puppets in some of the photographs represent this process of ‘trying on’ and ‘acting out’ the identities of different characters. Adults believe in the power of toys to shape a child's personality both positively and negatively. Because of this, children's toys become an intense site of ideological conflict for different groups trying to assert authority. Jon’s work explores the signifiers that toys give, combining and complicating them through his distinctive colourful and glossy style.

Jon Baker (b.1977) studied a Ba in Fine at Chelsea college of Arts (2014).  He has exhibited at Viable Gallery Istanbul (2022), OHSH projects, (2021) and Serpentine Gallery (2019). He was selected for the Catlin Arts prize (2015) and received the Parasol Unit Exposure award (2014). Before becoming an artist, Jon worked as a portrait photographer for magazines including French Vogue, ID and Dazed and Confused. For three years he worked as a photography assistant to artist Juergen Teller. Jon lives in South London and has a studio in one of the shipping containers at Trinity Buoy Wharf in docklands.