Meetings of significance seem to start with some kind of dramatic weather pattern in movies, a strong wind or a crash of thunder indicating change or an event approaching. Not to be too theatrical about it, but this was the backdrop to my meeting with Gerry Baptist last month. The day was an overcast one, like a sulky teenager refusing to talk. Then suddenly the light changed, becoming very yellow and the doorbell rang as the first spots of rain fell. Gerry stood on my doormat with two very large portfolio cases, which he deposited in my hallway before racing back up the path to collect a very heavy stiffy-bag. As he manouevered himself and his bags into the house, raindrops hanging from his hair, the rain started to pelt down in stair rods accompanied by a whoosh of air. We looked at each other in some surprise as we watched it hurl itself against the sitting room window like a screaming Valkyrie.
I turned to Gerry, a little unsure how to start the conversation after such a theatrical arrival.
So… you say that you were born in India…?
I smiled. Talking about oneself is always a good place to start and being born in India was different and certainly interesting. Gerry wiped the rain from his forehead and smiled back.
Yes I was. My father placed importance on quality of life rather than quantity. He pursued books, music and art rather than wealth, and encouraged that in me as well.
He had my full attention. I love profound wisdom and I’ve never heard anyone distil life into such a simple yet elegant and binary choice. I not only immediately agreed with Gerry’s father, but I found myself identifying with him as well.
Gerry is a gentle, thoughtful man with an enquiring mind. Born in India of British Portuguese parents, he admits that his bright and vivid palette has been influenced by a culture that expressly celebrate festivals of light (Diwali) and colour (Holi). He sees the world through a lens of curiosity and inquisitiveness, studying the secrets of trees in the same breath as questioning consumerism. He sees commonalities running throughout everything, whether plant, human, political or prose.
I studied a series of his woodcut prints based around the genetics and behaviour of plants (Mysteries of an English Garden), alongside a series that examines with frank honesty, our consumeristic greed (Burgergate series). At first these two bodies of work might not appear to have much in common, but Gerry sees the thread; we all fight each other for space and light, sometimes with greed. His eclectic enquiry covers Margaret Thatcher, Omar Khayyám, William Shakespeare and Biblical allegory. All is offered with a healthy pinch of Gerry’s uniquely wry and satirical humour. Yet little contains opinion – this space is reserved for the viewer.
As the rain fell, sometimes in torrents, we talked and talked. Two hours flew past before we realised the time, Gerry had plans to meet his son who lives in Bath. Packing up, I felt a sense of comfort and satisfaction that comes from sharing good conversation and with it, certain wisdoms. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Gerry Baptist will be exhibited from 7- 27 January, with an open weekend 19/20 January for drop-ins.