This week sees the return of our regular series of blog posts which takes a look at the places where Outside In artists live and work. Outside In Communications Officer Harry Scott travelled up to South London to visit the home of Phil Baird.
Phil Baird has lived at Brockley Lodge for thirteen years. His room is more than just a living space, it’s also a creative space where Phil draws, plays the guitar and works on his various artistic projects. As I visit, he is midway through a piece that he is working on as part of a weekly art group at Dragon Cafe in South London. The final work is due to be exhibited at Tate Modern in early November. The floor is scattered with shapes cut from card that will come together to form a large collection of cubes, with each cube featuring words and images contributed by members of the group. ‘Often a piece like this requires the whole room to be a total mess and you’re focused on a very small spot at the centre, where the artwork is taking shape’.
Objects collected from the beach on Orkney
While the floor may be a mess, the rest of the room is a showcase for Phil’s neatly displayed collections. ‘I’ve always had objects around, of different sorts, and they all tell different stories’. The beach combing finds from a recent trip to Orkney are carefully laid out in rows, like a museum display; the handle of a broken tea cup beside the clawed arm of a crab. ‘I’ve sort of over collected over the years, I’ve virtually had a museum in my room. In fact there’s a shed in the garden that is full of all of the things that don’t fit into the room. One day I’ll have my own museum’.
Phil’s interests are wide-ranging and this is reflected in the eclectic nature of his collections. He has some beautiful ethnographic objects received as gifts from his grandparents and from friends overseas. These sit beside found items like a jar of components from old transistor radios, interesting bits of packaging, feathers and conkers. Some brightly coloured constructions catch my eye – a row of insects made from wool, sticks and pipe-cleaners. ‘They were made by local school children’ he tells me. He saw them at an exhibition at a nearby gallery ‘They have that outsider aesthetic and I just thought they were fantastic’. We know, at Outside In, that Phil has a keen eye for Outsider Art. He was on the selection panel for Outside In’s current touring exhibition Radical Craft. ‘It’s one of my favourite shows ever, a really lovely exhibition’.
Insect sculptures made by local school children
Before I go, we take a bit of time to take a look at some of Phil’s recent creations. He directs me to some shelves, stacked floor to ceiling with more of his interesting artefacts. He reaches to the top shelf to open a small wooden door, ‘This year’s work is housed in a wooden cabinet, I hope it’s not irreligious of me to call it a tabernacle’. Phil admits his output has been prolific this year and the cabinet is tightly packed with many sketchbooks and works on paper. My favourites are a series of drawings that concertina out into wide panoramas, ‘In this work I’m putting all of the margins together. What’s going on in the margins is often more interesting than what’s going on in the centre’.
Phil Baird was on the selection panel for Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making
. The exhibition continues to tour the country until late 2017. Visit our website
for more information.