Jonathan Baldock: Touch Wood at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Katie Evans, Exhibitions Editor
Touch Wood
Installation view: Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art, group exhibition, Hayward Gallery, London, England (2022). Copyright Jonathan Baldock. Courtesy the artist and Hayward Gallery, London. Photo by Mark Blower.

Jonathan Baldock: Touch Wood at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield 23 September 2023 — 14 April 2024 Tickets from £9.00 — Book now

Jonathan Baldock’s Touch Wood, a visually sumptuous and conceptually intricate exhibition, is coming to Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Weston Gallery. 

Baldock is renowned for harnessing myth, folklore and humour to create alternative realities rich in colour and texture. His storytelling and wit create all-encompassing environments that are paradoxically joyous and uncanny.

For Touch Wood, Baldock has created an entirely new body of work, combining his emblematic sculptures and textiles to create an immersive installation that reimagines queer and working people’s histories, making visible their traditionally hidden narratives. 

The exhibition is based on the fifteenth-century misericords of nearby Wakefield Cathedral. Misericords, also known as mercy seats, are protruding carved shelves on the underside of folding seats. Ordinarily concealed when seated, they are revealed when the seat is returned upright. They offered relief to medieval church-goers persevering through a long service or prayer and needing somewhere to subtly perch. Given how inconspicuous they are, it allowed the craftsperson greater freedom to choose what imagery to carve – nature and mythical beasts more often than religious iconography – offering an insight into the interests and visual storytelling of communities beyond the church.

Installation view: Jonathan Baldock, ‘I’m Still Learning’, solo exhibition, La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain (2021). Copyright Jonathan Baldock. Courtesy the artist and La Casa Encendida. Photo by Bego Solís.

The craftspeople also had a sense of humour. In Wakefield’s cathedral, there’s a misericord depicting a mischievous “tumbler” (a jester) bending over, trousers down, its exposed buttocks later covered by the Victorians with a modesty fig leaf. 

As a queer and working-class artist, Baldock resonates with these historical craftspeople finding “pockets of joy” in expressing themselves, undercutting the church’s hold on creativity. Baldock’s own misericords are infused with colour, texture and folk imagery, enlarged to a scale that undermines their tradition of concealment, ushering them into the spotlight.

What would, in other hands, be anachronisms butting up against each other, are, in Baldock’s, a coherent body of work that deftly weaves several themes and timeframes.

Hanging textile panels form an embroidered architecture, with a circle of four panels at the heart of the gallery and others forming columns. These panels replicate a spiritual space, simultaneously a nod to the architecture of the church and to the drama and scale of the natural world.

And Baldock’s signature wit and humour extends to the exhibition’s title. Aside from the tongue-in-cheek innuendo, Touch Wood encourages a haptic interaction with the wooden carvings and nods to the ritual of superstition. 

Visitors can expect a visually sumptuous and playful experience that explores how memory and creativity function in long-established structures, and leads us to ask, exactly whose version of history are we collectively preserving? 

Jonathan Baldock: Touch Wood at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield 23 September 2023 — 14 April 2024 Tickets from £9.00 Book now

Where to go near Jonathan Baldock: Touch Wood at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Newmillerdam Country Park
Wakefield
Park
Newmillerdam Country Park

With a central lake and woodland, Newmillerdam Country Park is a haven for wildlife – a welcoming expanse of greenery just outside Wakefield.

Ossett Brewery Taproom
Wakefield
Bar or Pub
Ossett Brewery Taproom

With outdoor seating just 30 minutes drive outside Wakefield, Ossett Brewery specialises in award-winning real ales and has taproom and brewery tours on site.

A Touch of Craft Yorkshire

A Touch of Craft is a fresh, clean and vibrant space to learn new skills, meet new people and have some YOU time! ​
We only started in December 2021 but since then we have had sell out class after sell out class!

Cannon Hall Museum Park & Gardens, Barnsley
Barnsley
Museum
Cannon Hall Museum Park & Gardens

Cannon Hall is a stunning Georgian country house museum with outstanding fine and decorative art collections, set in 70 acres of historic parkland and beautiful landscape gardens. It is the perfect day out for all the family.

Event venue
Cannon Hall Farm

Cannon Hall Farm opened to the public for the first time in 1989. Since that time we have added adventure playgrounds, gift shop, farm shop, two restaurants and an indoor playground.

7A Wakefield Richard Wheater, Neon Workshops (c) Nicholas Singleton
Event venue
7A Wakefield

Wakefield’s 7A is a flexible performance / exhibition space Yorkshire. It is host to a number of impressive events used by Leeds College of Music, Wakefield College and the Neon Workshops.

Sandal Castle
Wakefield
Tourist Attraction
Sandal Castle

The romantic ruins of this medieval castle stand in a commanding position overlooking the Yorkshire countryside.

Holmfield Arms
Wakefield
Hotel
Holmfield Arms

A popular lodge-style hotel set in picturesque parkland with its own restaurant, close to Wakefield city centre.

Neon Workshops
Wakefield
Neon Workshops

One of Wakefield’s coolest companies, book a workshop, visit a temporary exhibition or browse Neon Workshops’ online shop.

Wakefield
Event venue
Venue 23

Venue 23 is an independently run live music venue in Wakefield, which plays host to both local and international talent.

What's on: Exhibitions

Culture Guides