Fri 17 Mar 2023 to Sat 22 Apr 2023
Artist: Eric Bainbridge
Opening reception: Thursday 16 March, 6pm-8pm
Workplace presents PLUCKPLUCK, a solo exhibition of recent works by British sculptor Eric Bainbridge. The exhibition draws on Bainbridge’s interest in the inherent potential for meaning that is woven into everyday objects and brings together two distinct bodies of work to be exhibited for the first time.
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Brightly coloured vertical forms, arranged precariously through the gallery, are revealed on closer inspection to be combinations of glassware and ceramics collected by Bainbridge from second-hand shops and markets. These high gloss, often translucent, domestic vases, cups, and ornaments are fused together by garish, viscous resin paste in combinations that hover uneasily between the beautiful and the absurd.
Downstairs, a diverse array of ceramic figurines are rendered ambiguous through the application of pigmented resin and geometric harlequinesque pattern, which obfuscates and generalises their form. Based on the European figurative ceramic tradition, these objects are drawn from nostalgia, and range from those formally close to 18th century Northern European ceramics, to those that are idealised or pastiche; clichéd archetypes: the goose and the maid, the farmer's wife, the lady in waiting, the ballerina, and the dandy posing jauntily in false sophistication.
Throughout the exhibition, we discern a tension between the works' innate frivolity and their deeper philosophical implications which lie in their original function as household ornaments used to decorate the mantlepiece or sideboard. These objects represent a bygone era and ideals that are rooted in nostalgia for a simpler time. Bainbridge calls into question the validity of such a worldview, alluding to the dark, unrefined aspects of society through upending and destabilising their form and surface and exposing the contradictions and inconsistencies that underlie our societal myths and ideals.
The title of the exhibition PLUCKPLUCK encapsulates the oppositional qualities of his work, drawing on the multiple meanings of the word. As a sound, ‘pluck’ is onomatopoeic and aesthetically pleasing, whereas it’s use as a verb - to ‘pluck’ a flower contrasts with its use as a noun: ‘Pluck’ being the residual and forgotten low-grade meats such as gizzard and lungs. This juxtaposition is also a nod to Bainbridge’s grandfather, who used such organs to create Pluck Stew, a dish the artist remembers as ‘disgusting.’
Eric Bainbridge is a British sculptor widely considered an influential figure to a younger generation of established British artists. Initially recognised in the 1980s for his object-based works covered in synthetic fur, Bainbridge has evolved an extensive sculptural practice addressing existential themes on an everyday level through playful assemblages. Constructed out of commonplace objects and inexpensive building materials, his pieces continuously re-contextualize Modernist principles through a reconsideration of the found object, its material qualities and the aesthetic values associated with it. Carefully staged, Bainbridge's assemblages investigate the domestic and the everyday whilst reflexively engaging with traditional sculptural concerns.
Eric Bainbridge (b. 1955, Consett, UK) studied at Newcastle Polytechnic and completed a Masters in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London in 1981. Bainbridge has exhibited in significant solo exhibitions including: Workplace, London (2021), Monitor, Rome (2017), The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall (2012), Camden Arts Centre, London (2012), MIMA, Middlesbrough (2008), Salvatore Ala, New York and Milan (2004), Pittsburg Centre for the Arts, Pittsburg (1992), The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1989), ICA, Boston (1987) and Walker Art Centre, Minnieapolis (1986). Group shows include: Yoshimi Arts, Tokyo (2019), Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham Museums (2018), Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London (2017), Haus Modrath - Raume fur Kunst, Kerzen (2017), The Royal Academy of Arts, London (2015), Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (2015) Drawing Biennial, The Drawing Room, London (2013), Venice Biennale, Venice (1986 and 1990). Bainbridge’s work is in the Tate Collection, UK; New Art Gallery Walsall Collection, UK; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, NL; Leeds City Art Gallery, UK; Arts Council of England, Collection amongst others.