Over the course of two decades, Sydney based artist Kate Baker has been combining elements of photography, sculpture and printmaking with studio glass. Graduating in 1999 from the Australian National University’s Glass Workshop (founded in 1983 by glass artist Klaus Moje), it was there Baker was taught the foundations of her craft by renowned New York glass artist Jane Bruce. Now working predominantly with kiln formed glass, photography and film, Baker has become a master of her chosen mediums, expertly manipulating a solid, hard surface to appear supple, flowing and imbued with layers of texture, figurative imagery and translucent colour.
Creating a work is not a singular, simple act for Baker. Using the process of kiln firing to produce her work, Baker uses the intense heat to create a soft surface of melted glass where imprints can be systematically added, and individual layers fused together. Once the glass has cooled, Baker applies more textures directly to the surface, grinding by hand or via a series of light sensitive resists – similar to a malleable strip of contact – sandblasting them away to reveal residues of impregnated pattern. To include imagery in her pieces, Baker uses UV flatbed printers to apply images directly on to glass or metal sheets, further imbuing her work with ghostly façades drawn from portraits, nature, Renaissance sculptures and architecture. The final result resembles a slick x-ray permeated with textures and markings, a multi-layered document occupied by an evocative visual language.
Most recently Baker has begun to experiment with the moving image, projecting segments of video onto multiple slabs of sinewy glass. In Pulse, 2019, the distorted image of performer Leeanna Walsman slips across a frosty mass of coloured glass shards (totalling over one hundred in number) via a single channel video. A soundtrack of hollow knocking accompanies the sculptural and video elements and makes it seem as though Walsman is trapped inside the glass fragments. A poetic exploration of loss, spirituality and the physical boundaries of the human body, the slivers of glass capture the light and shadows within the space like a crystalline whirlwind momentarily paused.
Currently back at the Australian National University to complete her PhD at the School of Art and Design, in 2018 Baker was the recipient of Canberra’s Hindmarsh Prize for Lena on the Tramp, 2018, a three panelled, silver mirror and aluminium work exploring the intersecting spheres of career, ambition and motherhood. A regular on the art prize circuit, Baker has also been a finalist in the Ravenswood Women’s Art Prize, the JamFactory’s FUSE Glass Prize, the City of Hobart Art Prize, the Ranamok Glass Prize and the International Exhibition of Glass Kanazawa Prize. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and been featured at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, the Toyama Glass Art Museum in Japan and the Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung Foundation in Munich.