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Charming Baker has had a string of international sell-out shows and amongst his legions of fans is a certain Mr Damien Hirst. Central London is the place to be this week as we gear up for the latest offering from the formidable self-governed artist and bonafide hot art ticket.
His work is figurative, painterly and traditional, yet even with the prettiest, pink-bowed bunny there resonates such unease. What can appear to be tiny bubbles floating around the rabbit's neck for example are in fact the imprints of shrapnel.
Baker's reputation as an 'urban artist' is probably down to his preferred use of a shotgun in many of his original works, but also his use of mark-making, inspired by the boards retrieved from skips, often drilled with holes, that he painted on before he could afford canvases.
In all fairness however, Charming Baker’s work is not ‘urban’ as we would associate the term with, say, graffiti art, but it does have a very raw essence to it. Something that reverberates even more so given that it is fine art painting, and very good painting at that.
For his new exhibition Every Thing Must Go, we are sure to see not only a sell-out of all works, but undoubtedly a new benchmark set for his prices. They are on the up and they don’t appear to be slowing.
The show will be like walking into a sweetshop, he says. 'I want it to be charming, reminiscent of old fashioned cartoons.' Baker's juxtaposition of nostalgia with sex and death is grown-up and playful, his work hauntingly beautiful and intentionally bothersome.
'There's an impulse to understand' he says, 'but there's also a simplicity I love about a painting; there it is, so simple and with so much meaning. There's a lot of death in this show.' Why? 'Because it's looming. I see my parents getting old. Of course death poses the question of whether it's worth doing anything, but the answer is yes, because the moment is intensely important: the present transcends all knowledge of dark stuff.'
Baker certainly takes risks, not only painting dogs and boats and rabbits that could be ridiculed, but with the new darkness that pervades his latest work. In Not All The Things I Have Are All The Things I Want, he has painted two dead 'junky lovers' taken from forensic photographs posted online as warnings by bereaved parents.
Charming Baker works outside the gallery system, with a team of managers and promoters, but says he has no problem with galleries. Pat Magnarella, one of America's most successful music managers (Green Day; Goo Goo Dolls) has been behind Baker since 2009, promoting him in the same way he promotes bands. Shows are publicised like a record campaign, via fly posters, postcards and emails, and the private views are rock and roll: hip venues, club DJs, a proper bar and the beau monde in attendance.
Every Thing Must Go is open to the public from the 8th July on Mercer Street, only a stone’s throw from our London gallery, in the heart of Covent Garden.