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Fragments from the show catalogue Everything Must Go, Charming Baker 2011

There’s a fox that lives beneath the shed at the bottom of our garden. Most nights I hear it screaming, last night it made me dream.
It was Charming.
He’d come round to borrow my chainsaw for a painting he was doing and I was a bit concerned.
We went into the garden carrying my air rifle and I showed him the fox. We peered beneath the shed at this grey shadow and Charming started shooting. I didn’t think this was fair and began to get cross but when I turned towards him I found he’d gone. I went back into the house leaving the chainsaw on the table and saw the fox leaping away over the wall.
It was charming.

I went into the studio and dropped my bag by the door. He’s built a false wall just inside so you have to turn to the left squeezing past a pile of canvases. The main space is bright, lit from above and has a metal framework supporting the roof. Its atmosphere hangs somewhere between an old school pool and an operating theatre. The floor is strewn with photographs, magazines, books and torn paper. A generator stands marooned in the middle like a headless cow. At the far end there’s a painting of a giant locomotive disappearing in a cloud of scratches and I immediately think of Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’ but no. It’s the power of the thing. A huge great steel muscle. Apparently the figure standing in front of it is his mother. I met her once, she seemed very nice, baking a Bread and Butter Pudding, or was it a Lardy cake? What was it Larkin said? ‘So anyway, that was what I was going to ask you about’ he says pointing to the space between the tail rotors of an enormous fan of helicopters. ‘Should I keep it in or take it out? But it’s alright because I’ve decided now. Funny that isn’t it?’

The partition wall is draped in black fabric and a painting of a gorilla stands in front on a large easel. It’s like a stage set, or a boxing ring into which anything might leap and assault the gorilla or write a play. It might be a housewife, or a boy in a mask or, just as likely, a clothes-horse and the resulting confrontation would be furious but lingering. It’s like the Special Theory of Relativity as written by Samuel Beckett. We were sitting in my garden looking at the pictures in a Boys Own annual from 1955 and Charming said ‘ D’you know, when I was a kid we had this book called Puzzles and it was full of all sorts of tricks and games but it had a cover that I loved because the title was in grey and the book was red. And I didn’t understand what it was at the time but it did this funny flashing thing (because of the tone)… and that’s what I want’. Simultaneity.

We went back to their place and stood in the garden in a cloud of smoke. There was a guy who’d just come back from a road trip to Kazakhstan talking to an Ad-man and an Ice-climber while Charming cooked the chicken. I handed him a tray and said ‘Kebabs or sausages?’ And he said ‘I’m fed up with variety, bring me a Hossenpfeffer!’ It’s probably half one. Everyone else seems to have crept off to bed but the three of us are still here at the kitchen table talking about aeroplanes. We’re all reflected in the glass above the kitchen sink. She’s on the offensive and says ‘These days an aeroplane means 9/11. You can’t get away from it’. I say ‘No, I think aeroplanes are society suspended in space’ and cut a tiny bit more cheese. Charming laughs and says quietly ‘I hate flying - it’s like you’ve been sent to your room for being bad.’

There’s a pair of stuffed swallows hanging from our chandelier and a fire flickering in the grate and a lot of wine and even some song and it’s Burns night again even though none of us are Scots. Charming starts telling me about how he’s been sent some film of by a guy who shot it in Panama 40 years ago during an epic crossing of the Darien Gap led by a fellow called Blashford-Snell. And in it there’s footage of his father, a Royal Marines Commando, sitting on a rock in the middle of a stream, grinning and drinking whisky from a waterbottle. And I’m there. I know this trip, in fact I read about it somewhere else but suddenly it’s real. No-one else seems to notice but the swallows take flight and the stream gushes out of the bookshelves and down the boulder-strewn table towards us and he’s there, somewhere just in front of the fire and I can hear his voice. There’s a latin word plorare which means to cry, wail or weep. It exists in deplore – to bewail, and it is in implore – to beg, or ‘wail at’. But it is also in explore which may have its origins in hunting when hunters shouted to flush out their quarry. Like grouse beating.

I was in my studio drilling a leg-bone and Charming came in. He offered me a battered cardboard box which, when gingerly opened revealed a dead rabbit. In fact it was a rabbit he’d shot 30 years before, skinned and re-stitched into a bag. The bag contained a penknife, a tiny reel of brown cotton, a rusty pair of nail scissors, a length of copper wire, and a ‘thumbnail’ can-opener. ‘It’s my hunting kit’ he said. I was delighted and placed it in a glass case. Some years later, having moved, I opened a cardboard box labelled ‘Initiation’ to find the rabbit skin bag once more but it had decayed. The skin was bald and the contents half-buried in an ash-like dust. Along with the other items were the skull of a rabbit and a book by Adam called Primitive Art.

The flat they lived in then was tiny. You went up the communal stairs and it was always night and it felt like you were inside but it was still concrete and public until you knocked on the door. We drank wine in the kitchen, four of us, and we had about two floor-tiles each to stand on till we went through to the other room to eat. The walls were jammed with books and magazines mostly from another era and paintings everywhere. There was a tiger on the wall and a baseball bat instead of a chair leg and Superman had obviously shed his skin on the sofa before we arrived. We sat in candlelight listening to the sounds of the 60’s and 70’s while the fell rain outside on the heath.

I had a studio down the corridor from Charming’s. We’d changed the names on the doors of people whose work we didn’t like so his was next to Raphael and mine was opposite Marcel Duchamp. I’d made some cutlery out of bones and was busy laying them out on a tiny dining table when he came in and said ‘D’you know what I did yesterday?…’ I said ‘What?’ He said ‘ that portrait of a lady – I took it down to a friend’s on Romney Marsh and blew the arse off it with a shotgun’.
  daughter of the artist