Kenneth Baker (1931-1995)

Born in 1921, Harfield Road, Claremont. Kenneth Baker was a self taught artist encouraged by his father who was a house painter. Baker worked as a sign writer in the Cape Town Docks before launching himself as a professional artist. Today his paintings of fisherman and dockyard scenes feature prominently in many cape collections.

Baker painted cityscapes, landscapes, figurative works and flower pieces. A popular “Voice” he dramatises in a highly subjective manner the daily discourse of life in the Cape Flats, District Six and the Bo-Kaap. Kenneth Baker’s paintings speak to us. The emotive and somewhat primitive simplification of the figurative work recalls the paintings of the German expressionists so do his sombre tones off set by luminous colour.

No attempt is made to embellish his subject – he tells it as it is. Lacking the opportunities of an extensive formal education Kenneth Baker speaks to us through his paintwork, by dramatizing in his own highly subjective manner that daily course of events. In this rich, interactive theatre the painted characters will occasionally refer to the viewer, seeking his opinion with a glance, revealing a covert transaction. There is also a certain degree of automatic painting in the background – figures appear behind flower pieces and on the walls of the room in interior scenes.

As an associate of the Vakalisa Group he exhibited at the Rodin Gallery in Long Street, Cape Town. He also exhibited at Gallery 709; The Oasis Gallery; The Association of Arts in Belleville. In all he had thirteen one-man exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions.

When the District Six Foundation convened an exhibition in The Forum Gallery in Cavendish Square, Kenneth Baker, then an octogenarian, relived in his paintings the gaiety and joy of life experienced in District Six before it was destroyed. He died in November 1996 from the ravages of a stroke.

One of Bakers friends is Ocean View artist Peter Clarke. “We struggled together but we had some good times together – going to exhibitions – we used to take it in turns to bring along a cake and then we would just spend the afternoon talking about art and music.”

Kenneth Baker says: ” I used to work in Cape Town Dockyard and do sketches, sometimes of people sleeping on the job – that used to frighten them and they used to say “Don’t show the Boss.” Mr. Baker has four children. The youngest is the only one keen in dabbling with the paintbrush.

Further information, and examples of his work can be seen at: •    The Cape Gallery •    Johans Borman Gallery •    Michael Stevenson Gallery •    Stephen Weltz & Co Auctioneers •    Stellenbosch Art Gallery •    Fine Art Portfolio •    AskArt – The Artist’s Bluebook •    The Art World Online