Leonard Baby, The PPP / Oostmeijer Residency

As an avid film binger, Leonard Baby doesn’t have to look too far for references to paint. He scours The Criterion Collection in search of classics to watch on his laptop, pausing his cursor on overlooked moments in films that most would ignore. He does so to bring a suspended drama to these otherwise innocuous scenes, his eye often drawn to romantic comedies that circulated his childhood in the early 2000s.  

While on the PPP residency he favoured mid-century European dramas, the scenes akin to his surroundings in Amsterdam. In some you’ll notice glimpses of a canal or bike, as if he painted them en plain air outside his studio. In another a dog from a Disney film takes centre stage, paying homage to Edwin Oostmeijer’s spaniel who’d often roam while he painted. 

Although the compositions are plucked from bygone films, their relevance lives on, Leonard favouring colourful cropped backdrops to draw our eyes in. When viewed alongside one another they appear like torn pages from magazine spreads. In every composition, the protagonists’ identities are concealed, as expressive hands or feet always loom over the paintings. When displayed together, with their exacting pastel tones and parti-colour backdrops, they read as one circuitous scene played through the lens of a single director’s vision.

He works quickly, using acrylics in favour of oils due to their speedier drying time. Painting to Leonard takes on a diaristic sensibility, each composition absorbing his filmic interest at the very moment they were made like daily evanescent thoughts marked on a page. Leonard associates his colour palette with Looney Tunes cartoons of the 1940s, the pastel tones casting his paintings under an incongruously animated light. Throughout the residency he worked predominantly onto canvas, noticing the textures reflected the folds of clothing worn by the protagonists within. And as your eyes slowly pan across a room of Leonard’s paintings, each disparate scene connects as if in one long film – a dinner table, a hotel room – encouraging us to fill the gaps of apprehension he leaves ajar.

Ted Targett

Leonard Baby, The PPP / Oostmeijer Residency

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