A key series of works, entitled There’s no place like home, 2019-20, is centred on the Oslo house that she grew up in and still inhabits with her three teenage children and elderly mother, for whom she acts as carer. Through vivid images of herself and her family, Baird captures the states of exhaustion, boredom and frustration that accompany the everyday tasks of looking after a household, conjuring up the chaotic detritus of domestic life in a kaleidoscope of provocatively raw imagery: her ever-present mother is seen lying ghost-like in bed; half-dressed teenagers, attached to their mobiles, slump at the table. The artist portrays herself with honest vulnerability, as both a mother, daughter and carer, explicitly describing the taboo subjects of intimate bodily functions and the ageing female body. Her work is underpinned by a dark sense of humour, with scenes made more menacing by Baird’s use of pictorial foreshortening and angled perspectives; her figures are compressed into claustrophobic spaces that draw the viewer unavoidably into nightmarish psychodramas.
A prolific artist, Baird often makes work on a scale that is physically demanding. Central to this exhibition is a mammoth drawing, A little red coat, a pair of beautiful blue trousers and a green umbrella lost at sea, 2020, twelve paper scrolls that wrap the gallery walls, stretching four meters in height and more than 14 meters across. Made for this exhibition, it evokes Japanese ink scrolls of mountains and seascapes; her gestural handling of watercolour and fluidly drawn line owes something to Hokusai, an artist she admires. Whilst Baird’s work is rooted in the autobiographical, here her scope widens: disturbing scenes of figures drowning in the waves might be informed by Norwegian folklore, pervaded by legends of the sea, as well as referencing international political issues such as the European refugee crisis. Equally, the sea might represent personal psychological tumult, a feeling of being swept away or overwhelmed. Baird has never shied away from tackling difficult and controversial subjects in her work and these ambiguous images can be read as being both candid and confrontational.