Interview | Richard Baker on winning the 2019 HIX Award

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Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger presenting the prize. From left to right Mark Hix, Richard Baker and prize organiser and HIX ART curator Sophie Harriott

This year’s HIX Award attracted more than 600 entrants and, as founder Mark Hix admits, it was very tough trying to pick a winner from the final fifteen. After much deliberation, the judges of the 2019 HIX Award, Tate Director Maria Balshaw and Head of the Royal Academy Schools Eliza Bonham Carter, selected Richard Baker for his painting Hall Stand. Annie Carpenter met with him to hear more.

The work that you won the HIX Award with is small-scale. Is this the size that you normally work in? And if so, why?

Yes, it is, although I do sometimes work slightly larger. One metre in any direction is my maximum size at the moment. There are a number of reasons for this; some philosophical and some pragmatic. My studio is small, so it does not make sense for me to fight against that environment, but also, I want the viewer to be physically engaged. The works require the viewer to approach them, they invite the viewer to take a closer look, and not stand back to be enveloped. They are intimate objects that quietly ask for the viewer’s attention rather than demand it.

Hall Stand by Richard Baker, 21 x 27cm, Oil on panel, 2019

Hall Stand also works as abstract work, I think, and I wondered if this was deliberate?

Yes, very much so. The painter Paul Winstanley states that ‘It is impossible to make paintings of any sort now without an internalized vocabulary of twentieth-century abstraction’. This fact is at the forefront of my work, which often emphasises flatness and the articulation of surface in equal measure to the liminal qualities of a space or object transformed by light. Abstraction has always played a role in my work; the objects I paint have always been presented as formal arrangements.

I think it would be fair to say your work captures the quotidian. Is this something you set out to do?

Again, yes. However, the works capture the quotidian in an uncanny way. The objects I depict are ‘everyday’, however, they are also ‘out of time’ – they are out of sequence with events, they are objects of the past and this is a deliberate strategy on my part. Painting has an inseparable relationship with time and temporality. It is a relationship that is grounded in the activity of standing and looking. Painting acts as a disruption to the notion of linear time, in the manner of its making and the way it is received. They are, I believe, what Walter Benjamin termed Dialectical Images ‘in which the relationship of past to present is not one of linear time, but of constant negotiation.’ I am also aware that these quotidian objects are now back in fashion, adding further disruption to the reading of the work.

Is this HIX Award the first prize you have won?

No, during my second year as a BA undergraduate student I won the Gascoyne Painting Prize, which was set up by a small independent gallery in Harrogate. It was immeasurably important to me at the time, as both a boost to my confidence and to my ability to pay the rent.

More than 600 people entered this year. Why do you think the HIX Award is so popular with artists?

Its prestige and particularly the timing of it, I think. Leaving the structure and motivation offered by education can be horrendously challenging for an artist. All of a sudden you have no studio space, no funding and no discernible direction. An award like the HIX goes a long way to solving those issues and allows you to simply continue making work confident in the knowledge that some of the biggest names in the art world believe that what you’re doing is important and of value.

In addition to your show at HIX ART, what do you have planned for the future?

I have just begun the planning of a co-curated group exhibition with fellow painters Tom Palin and Josie Jenkins which will feature works by 23 contemporary painters who are deliberately working on a small scale, from Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. The exhibition is scheduled to open in January 2020 in Leeds. I’m also currently working on an application for a commission presented by a Leeds-based property company for a single work on a much larger scale than I normally work. The opportunity to challenge myself to do something different with scale is very exciting.

The HIX Award was founded by Mark Hix in 2013 to give artists a platform to showcase their work and take their first steps in their professional careers. It is open to current students and recent graduates of UK art colleges. This year’s shortlisted artists were: Alexander Dixon, Bianca Barandun, Christopher Hartmann, Dafni Atha, David Mullen, Gabriela Giroletti, Jacob Littlejohn, Jung Min Park, Lucy Gregory, Megan Mary Baker, Melissa Hartley, Paul Wood, Richard Baker, Saroj Patel, Yulia Iosilzon. The judges this year included Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, Eliza Bonham-Carter, Head of Art, Royal Academy of Arts, the artist Charming Baker and Paul Robinson, founder of Artlyst. The main sponsor of this year’s award is the international gallery, Hauser & Wirth.

Interview by Annie Carpenter.
The HIX Award 2019 exhibition is on view at the HIX ART gallery from 14 September – 10 November. To find out more, visit the HIX ART website here

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                                                                         The HIX Award was founded by author and restaurateur Mark Hix in 2013 to give artists a platform to showcase their work and take their first steps in their professional careers. It is open to current students and recent graduates of UK art colleges. This year’s shortlisted artists were: Alexander Dixon, Bianca Barandun, Christopher Hartmann, Dafni Atha, David Mullen, Gabriela Giroletti, Jacob Littlejohn, Jung Min Park, Lucy Gregory, Megan Mary Baker, Melissa Hartley, Paul Wood, Richard Baker, Saroj Patel, Yulia Iosilzon. The judges this year included Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, Eliza Bonham-Carter, Head of Art, Royal Academy of Arts, the artist Charming Baker and Paul Robinson, founder of Artlyst. The main sponsor of this year’s award is the international gallery, Hauser & Wirth.


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