‘This recent body of work was inspired by teaching my young boys how to use scissors! This teaching in turn taught me about the pleasure of mark making and the sophistication of cut and paste.’
These works explore a visual language of shape and form through a variety of materials and processes. Ben’s practice, particularly for the ABSTRACTIONS exhibition, is process driven and it seeks to retain the simplicity and magic of initial collage work. By employing photography, screen printing, texture and scale he enhances the physical relationship between the viewer and the artwork and exploits the visual tension between mark making, flattened space and mixed media. The timber sculptures in this exhibition are a natural continuation of Ben’s exploration of shape and space. They continue a dialogue of negative and positive space in three dimensions whilst making use of the inherent qualities found in the materials. This body of abstract contemporary work is both precise and poetic.
In Australia we’re living in age of speed and sophisticated chaos and control. As an artist how do you see our creative future evolving?
I think the visual arts in general are quite remarkable in that you have always had artists whose practices embrace the age in which we are living and even help to push new ideas and technologies into areas they were not originally intended. While at the same time you have artists whose practice is grounded in the tradition. With these ideas in mind, I think our creative future will be one where boundaries are further blurred when it comes to artists utilising a multi- disciplinary approach to dealing with the practice of making art.
And as a father of two young creative minds, what is the best piece of advice you can give your boys to navigate their way into the future?
Do what you love. You’re not always going to be able to solely do what you love but if you can keep it moving along that is something that will help you and become something you can draw upon as your move through all stages of life. That and don’t hit your brother.
And … The best advice you’ve received?
I think it was something along the lines of ‘you need to make art for you and not anyone else because at the end of the day or I should say at 2 am, no one else is in the studio cheering you on so you have to be excited by what you are doing.’
You have an added insight from teaching art to the younger generation – What are your thoughts on art education and what do you love about your day job?
I think the older I get the more I am just amazed by some of the things kids make and how their work has this amazing quality that we end up losing as we become adults. The irony is that it’s not until you grow up and study art that you can actually appreciate how beautiful some of their spontaneous creations are. I think the thing I love about my day job is that I can learn and experiment with new things and not feel like they need to come back into my practice, that and as a teacher you can easily talk to 100 people in a day. Compare that to working in the studio on your own and I think the two, kind of compliment each other.
Your art practice has shown tremendous growth in both medium and composition since winning the 2010 Metro People’s Choice Award. Your upcoming exhibition at Otomys ABSTRACTIONS is a total breakaway from your earlier oil paintings – What determined this change and what was the inspiration for this work?
The new direction in my work began several years ago but there were a number of different things that happened around the same time that led to the change. The first being, I took almost 18 months away from the studio because I began a major renovation and extension on our 1960’s weatherboard beach house. That time on the tools and away from the studio was really important in retrospect because it allowed me to reflect on my practice and kind of work think about art without the pressure of making it the same time. The second thing during that period was a very generous friend and art collector invited my family to move into the back of their Merricks Nth weekend residence which has an amazing art collection made up of Australian abstraction and indigenous art. So just being around these works day in and day out helped me gave me the confidence and the necessary push to explore abstraction. Thirdly, working with building materials everyday gave me the materials and the skills to explore abstraction with. So I began constructing paintings with acrylic sheet and plywood and combining it with materials I was already familiar with like raw linen and canvas. I started to build sculpture seriously for the first time in my career using form ply, which is used for making formwork when pouring concrete, and hardwood. So essentially everything I was learning while building was worming its way into my art practice.
You live and work in one of the world’s most beautiful serene locations – can you share with us any best-kept-secrets on the Mornington Peninsula?
I don’t know how secret they are but there are some nice secluded little beaches between Olivers Hill in Frankston and Mount Eliza that you wouldn’t even know are there. They’re generally pretty empty even during summer which means you can take your dog without any dramas too. Pt Leo Estate and McClelland Sculpture park are also great places to visit with amazing food and wine. Both have some great works by Australian and International sculptures and because they’re outside the kids can run around and everyone’s happy!
March 14, 2019