Artist Greg Baker looks in his own backyard for latest exhibition

Greg Baker in his studio

When award-winning Western Australian artist Greg Baker embarks on his morning walk with wife Anna, he reflects on Beatle George Harrison’s quote about seeing the world from the end of his garden. 

“I sort of changed it a bit in my own terms so that I can see the whole world in my backyard,” Greg tells Have a Go News as he prepares for the opening of his new exhibition Looking In-Seeing Out (Life in a Circle) in Fremantle this month.

“Because I haven’t travelled in the past year, I was reflecting on George Harrison’s quotes on life,” Greg says. “George was metaphysical in the way he thought. Because I decided I could see the whole world from my own backyard I thought I could take that idea and use it to a degree.

“Pretty much every morning my wife Anna and I go through all the seasons; we walk down to the beach, we take a different route each time, we roughly walk in a circle, as do other locals.

“Heading from home, we walk through a corridor of tuarts and redgums to the Woodman Point jetty, then along my favourite strip of sand to the Omeo wreck, past the Coogee jetty and back home to the studio.

”Sometimes we stop to talk to the pelicans, pick up shells or have a swim.”

Before 2020 Greg spent half the year painting and conducting painting workshops and tours. His works have been exhibited in Berlin, France, London, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as throughout Australia. He had two exhibitions of ballet works at the WA Ballet Centre in Maylands in 2013. 

His many commissions include works for corporate collections such as Shell, Woodside and Rio Tinto. Overseas commissions include the Sultanate of Oman and Oman Liquid Natural Gas.

His skills are diverse, and the range and breadth of his subject matter extraordinary. He has mastered visual art mediums and is celebrated for his oils, pastels, acrylics and watercolours. His paintings are mostly figurative and he is much acclaimed for his seascapes and landscapes.

Former WA Premier Colin Barnett said: “Greg is an institution in Western Australia and travels with his commissions around the world.”

Apart from two paintings of Fremantle itself, Greg says his current exhibition of 30 works Looking In-Seeing Out (Life in a Circle) is basically what he has done and is very local.

“I’ve lived in Coogee for six years, before that I built a gallery in Gooseberry Hill. My wife Anna is a Fremantle girl and my mum grew up in Fremantle so I thought I would look at a different scene, a real sea change.”

Born in West Midland (now called Woodbridge) Greg has been a full-time artist since 1976. He started out at school and did graphic design but wanted to paint.

“I had a ruckus with one of the teachers and was told to leave. My father said: ‘you are going to do the next best thing and become a mechanic’, so I thought how does that relate? As a 16-year-old, I couldn’t work that out at all.

“I did an apprenticeship and became a tradesman and they put me in the drafting office because I could really draw. I was drafting away with a wife and two little kids and came home one afternoon and said, ‘damn this, I want to become an artist.’

“So, I spent three or four years filling shelves at Coles and Woolies, doing cleaning jobs and painting as I was going. Then I started winning awards with my paintings which was when I went full-time.”

Greg says that so far life has been great. 

“Before 2020 I spent half the year from 1985 doing painting tours around Europe including hiring a barge to be inspired by scenery. I went to various parts of the south of France and at least every second year would take a group of people away.

“We would tour around, drink some red wine and paint, basically being very creative. I have a good friend in Toulouse who has set up part of his barn as a studio for me. I also have a good friend who is a brilliant translator and I can wave my arms around and she will explain to those watching what I am doing.”

Greg says he has worked on his current exhibition for the past year, painting the circle he walks over the four seasons, winter, spring and lots of summer, capturing the changes in light, sky and the ocean. 

He is exhibiting his works at the Greg James Sculpture Studio Gallery. Greg James is a sculptor who created the famous Bon Scott work in Fremantle. 

“Greg and I have been friends since 2000; we had an exhibition in Berlin at the Australian Embassy in 2006.

“I have been invited by the gallery to do another show before next Christmas. I won’t have as many works but I would like to paint some rather medium sized to large works focused on Fremantle and down the coast.

“So I’m all fired up over that.”

Looking In-Seeing Out (Life in a Circle) an exhibition of new works by WA artist Greg Baker, runs at the Greg James Sculpture Studio Gallery, Unit 2, J Shed, Fleet Street, Fremantle (north end of Bathers Beach), until Thursday, May 23.

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Josephine Allison started her career in journalism at 18 as a cadet on the Geraldton Guardian newspaper. She realised her ambition to work on a daily newspaper when she later joined The West Australian where she spent almost 34 years covering everything from police courts to parliament, general news, the arts and real estate. After moving on from The West, she worked on several government short-term media contracts and part-time at a newspaper in Midland before joining Have a Go News in 2012. These days she enjoys writing about interesting people from various fields, often unsung heroes who have helped make WA a better place.