Fleeting scenes of spontaneity flicker through Baden Croft’s work: a koala sitting in contemplation, bushland reflected symmetrically on the surface of a billabong, a morose fox caught mid-hunt. The melancholy and beauty of the Australian ecosystem is captured in exquisite detail, stillness and gore.
Baden works out of Southern Buoy Studios on the Mornington Peninsula, where a converted art space houses eight studios and a gallery. The presence of this coastal creative community helps Baden’s practice – the ebb and flow of ‘everyone coming and going’ – but also situates him in the landscape he prefers to paint.
‘I have never liked big crowds or cities; they make me feel like a sardine squished into a claustrophobic little tin,’ he explains. ‘I don’t really find concrete or bricks very aesthetically pleasing either.’
He finds the poetry of the bush richer in detail and plot. ‘Much of my work has been quite driven by the environment; there are new subjects and stories to make paintings about each waking day.’
Baden’s work recalls the kinesis of Brett Whiteley and the emotion of Ben Quilty, while still managing to stay totally his own. Now working as a full-time painter, he is keenly aware of the artistic tradition of painting the Australian landscape he sits in, but it’s an awareness that looks to the future rather than the past for inspiration. ‘I feel as though people who like to make things with their hands are always going to find something new to motivate them to keep creating.’
The artist’s upcoming show Navigating Cook will explore this constant oscillation between Australia’s past and present, by interrogating the shifting mythology around the colonial explorer. It will open at Michael Reid in May, as will his solo show at art2muse in Double Bay. Also, keep an eye on the digital horizon for Baden’s work in an online group show next month at Michael Reid, where his still lifes will show alongside other exciting, original artworks.