By Rachel Doyle Photos Willow Creative
Through sea-salted lashes, remnants of this morning’s surf, we see the world of expressionist artist Baden Croft. Inspired by the wild natural environment, this Mornington Peninsula based artist captures his world with thick painterly strokes, transporting us through richly coloured pits and peaks.
Sitting in his studio, Croft immerses himself in the chaos of colour. Palettes are stacked in haphazard abandon; the perfect colour mixed and left as future inspiration. Growing mounds of paint become sculptural art, each session an opportunity to build on the slow art formation they have become. Propped in the corner, a surfboard still beads wet with local swell. His well-loved coffee cup sits half drunk as we sit down with the unassuming yet charming painter captivated by his natural environment.
Baden shared, “My work has increasingly become about the changing environment and the impact humans are having on the natural world. Visiting these idyllic places, it always strikes me how fragile the natural beauty is. I want my works to depict what we have now and cherish it, whilst encouraging the viewer to question their own part in the evident demise of the natural world. At the moment, trees are my favourite subjects. I feel they are the perfect means to communicate the story and health of a landscape.”
Describing his practice, Baden explained, “I have a very painterly technique, if you look closely at my work you can tell which tool I have used to create a particular mark and can guess at how my body was moving when the mark was made. Someone once said that I paint the way I surf, with the paint curling like a wave. Cool idea — although not sure it’s true,” he shares, laughing.
There is no denying that Croft’s large-scale works have a distinct presence, “Working on a large canvases and subject matters means I have so much more freedom. Walking back and forward, it adds another dimension – you end up with this abstract mess when you stand a foot away and then step back and you get a figurative image that makes complete sense.”
With such an apparent emotional connection to his subject matter and the process, we asked Baden how he knows when a work is complete: “This is definitely the hardest part about painting in my opinion; knowing when to stop and not overwork things. I think it is instinctive at times; more an intuitive decision than a science. Not that it ever looks like how I imagined it would, but that’s half the fun.”
Baden’s style pays a respectful yet cheeky nod to another Australian expressionist artist obsessed with thick painterly application, an obvious inspiration to the young artist: “I think the scale and boldness of Ben Quilty’s paintings are what initially inspired me. He is definitely the reason I picked up a palette knife and began churning through copious amounts of oil paint. But more than his technique, I find the issues he addresses and questions he asks about the world to be intriguing, not to mention the fact he doesn’t really fit the stereotypical artist mould. If talking inspiration, I’ve always been enthralled with Whiteley for his ridiculous imagination, John Brack for his criticisms of western society and the work of Diebenkorn for his compositions.”
Talking latest projects Croft states, “I’ve just completed working on a series of paintings based on a trip to King Island and the damage to the native landscape I saw due to the local farming industry. The series will exhibit at Sydney-based Michael Reid Murrurundi.
In late April, I have been invited to be part of the show, Navigating Cook. It is an exhibition that navigates the shifting myth of Captain James Cook, hosted by Michael Reid Sydney, in conjunction with Hordern House, antiquarian book dealers.”
The impressive painterly technique and environmentally compassionate intent of Baden’s works belies his twenty-three years. An artist to watch, his works have already found homes in collections around Australia. Croft exhibits annually at Art2Muse Sydney in a solo show and continues to show regular works at Michael Reid Murrurundi. “I also exhibit my new work at Southern Buoy Studios on the Mornington Peninsula where my studio is based.”