Dates and times
Inspired by the discovery, in 1974, of more than a thousand perfectly preserved inscribed clay tablets (ca. 2500 BC) in the ancient city of Ebia, Syria, Jonathan Baldock has created a new installation of work comprising of precariously stacked ceramic columns.
Paying homage to the extraordinary artefacts - inscribed with cuneiform, the world's oldest writing system - Baldock’s exhibition presents an alternative history of clay as a tool of communication and a carrier of language that defiantly stands the test of time.
Drawing from histories of labour, folklore and storytelling, Baldock experiments with glass, basketry and spinning to highlight the decline of traditional making; skills lost due to technology that once transformed society, but now increasingly threatens its ecological stability.
Weaving early human script into dialogue with emoji, the fastest growing contemporary language, Baldock explores communication employed by humans across time and cultures. In addition to the cuneiform, this idea is carried through a series of clay tablets of rudimentary modelled human faces or masks. Drawing on the most fundamental and universal of human images - two eyes, a nose and a mouth - they engage the viewer in the innate search for pattern, and facial recognition, playfully elevating and testing the boundaries of materials, shapes and colours, and their ability to communicate, represent or mediate emotion.
In doing so Baldock reveals how language both elucidates and obscures; in his work language becomes an object that is at once intellectual and messy but ultimately, for all its slippery, inscrutability, something irrepressible and alive.
Commissioned by Camden Arts Centre through the Freelands Lomax Ceramics Fellowship and in partnership with Tramway, Glasgow’