Frame 61

Sam Baker

Frame 61
Sam Baker

"I am interested in mocking and provoking the physical through the use of steam as a force to create and destroy."


Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?

I’m 25 years old and currently a 2nd year, MA Sculpture student at the Royal College of Art. I was born in Northampton, but moved to London to study Fine Art at Kingston University. I also work part-time at a secondary school in North London.

In my first year at Kingston, I use to identify as a painting student! However, I spoke lots about materials and process as I gained an appreciation for technical virtuosity. I realised I was enjoying building stretchers more than actually painting on them. This resulted in a shift in my practice towards 3.D making. In my second year, I made a real breakthrough in my work as I began to construct fragmented replicas of places that were familiar to me.

These spaces continued to grow throughout my 3rd year and they became more conceptually engaged. I began playing with narratives and questioning the latent potential that these materials could harness.

Your more recent sculptures combines the use of metal and wood with steam, could you tell us about these works and the meaning behind the use of steam?

Initially, steam was introduced as an activator because I was concerned about stagnation within my work. There is an out of control nature to steam and the way that it will not behave as a physical, matter based material. As vapour, steam is pervasive and intangible.

I wanted to subvert a traditional steam bending technique from a process into a material. I began experimenting with industrialised components such as timber and steel and found that I could rupture their binary relationships through surface exposure to pressurised steam.

I am interested in mocking and provoking the physical through the use of steam as a force to create and destroy.

Steam Engine video 2017

45° Kerf Cut Steel. 2017

Over Time. 2017

Self-Destructive, 2017

Your forms are often twisted and bent, could you tell us your thoughts behind this?

By deliberately twisting, bending and pinching linear forms I am creating a new, physical act of communication. The works stand as sites of a past performance where I have laboriously cut into materials creating conversation about production, finesse and dexterity.

The procedure of inflicting multiple cuts on a surface is known as ‘kerf cutting’ and it derives from traditional Scandinavian design methodologies.

For me, the action of cutting is rhythmic and it allows me to gain physical autonomy over particularly stubborn materials such as steel. When a material becomes submissive it also becomes ambiguous and sensitive to a new set of rules that can be pushed and broken.

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?

I see my studio as a sight of production.

I tend to work quickly in the studio, but for long hours. I like to start early and finish late. When I am engaged with a project I can become obsessed with it.

I always try to avoid bringing my laptop to the studio to prevent being bogged down by administrative tasks. Instead, I have set up my studio as more of a workshop complete with power tools, a workbench, and a well-stocked tool wall.

Having a studio as an epicentre for objects and elements creates a vacuum where all materials are suspended in space and nothing has special status; everything exists equally. I like to imagine my studio as a net that sieves these particles into an unfamiliar sequence of new ideas and possibilities.

Little Hercules, installation view, Borders Borders, Edinburgh College of Art, 2017

Little Hercules, installation view, Borders Borders, Edinburgh College of Art, 2017

Pinch. 2017

Kerf Cut Timber, 2016

Steam Engine video. 2017 (Detail)

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

Paul Johnson: Teardrop Centre. At Camden Arts Centre. His installation of studio remnants highlights the often ignored layers of waste, dirt and detritus accumulated on the studio floor. On viewing the work you become hypersensitive to every individual item in the show, no matter how trivial or banal.   You become aware of connections between objects, and a hierarchy allows you to recognise the materials in a new light; transformed and moulded by their displaced surroundings. His process relies on his susceptibility to looking and being tentative to his collection of objects. He uses his studio as a place to organise and categorise his treasures, but also as a station for an entire universe, with specific energies and tensions, to be built through repetitive ritual.

How do you truly know what an object is? Or what you can do with it?

In order to legitimately scrutinise a material, I believe that you need to examine it infinitely. I believe that all artists are anxious to discover more about their practice and further question the materials that they interactive with every day.

How do you go about naming your work?

The titles are literal, but they also reveal a small clue about the work.

I’m not a very good decision maker. I established a method a few years ago, after taking a job in a bookies, of naming my work after race horses. I find the humour attached to horse names slightly disconcerting as we are unconsciously seduced into spending our money on a particular horse because of a short-lived pun. I would select the winning horse from the race that was geographically closest to me, at the time of finishing the sculpture.

Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

I am currently exhibiting work in London and Manchester. In Battersea I am participating in the annual RCA secrets show. Simultaneously in Manchester, I am exhibiting Altered States, as part of hidden Altrincham. This is a continuation of the summer show at AIR Gallery which was part of the North West’s Manifest Festival 2017.

All images courtesy of the artist
Publish date: 28/09/2017