Ben is a Cornwall-based artist with autism. I got talking to him in a pub a few months ago, and discovered the masses of work that he's produced based on vintage television sets. Sculpture, photography, drawing and digital collage all features in his portfolio. What interests me is not his learning difficulties but his obvious intelligence and pure sense of creativity which has led him to become the artist he is. I think Ben realises the obsession with technology and communication we hold as inhabitants of 21st century civilization as well as reflecting on the unique way in which his mind works. This week (27.4.15 - 2.5.15) Ben and I are holding a small retrospective of his work in The Garden Studio, Falmouth, images of which can be seen below.
I'm trying to return to a piece, to re-work, recycle, regurgitate, re-reform. My practice tends to rely on a spontaneity, an instantness that produces work that although full of energy sometimes fails to convey what I wish it too. For example I attended a film seminar and immediately rushed out to create 3 small films which have yet to be developed and further film work considered. To overcome this artistic attention deficit I have begun to return to previous pieces, look at them from a different angle and question myself - why am in attracted to this piece? why does it 'work'? Have I succeeded in communicating my concept? How would I display this work in a gallery (or other) space? One way of refreshing a piece in this way is through computer manipulation and editing, tools which I wish to explore hurt her as my practice leans towards audi-visual installation, film and digital art. To begin this journey of revisiting and digitalizing, I have been playing around with a simple app which has allowed me to glitch images of my paper collages, as seen below.
As I develop my performance, film, and digital based practice, questions of presentation and installation arise. A live performance in front of an audience can be effective, but how to capture the effect more permanently? A film shown in its own right, on a monitor or projected, can fail to communicate what I wish. There are a number of ways in which such work can be presented to fully engage the viewer and encapsulate the energy of the work. For example, Parker Ito's 2014 installation at the White Cube (video monitors placed amongst neon lighting and potted flowers), Nam June Paik's Nixon 1965-2002 (electromagnets alter the video image at random moments) and Roger Thorp's light boxes (analogue film stills in backlit frames). From these original points of research, I have begun to explore how my audio-visual work may be displayed to its full effect. I have begun by creating a 10x10cm lightbox, printing 7 performance stills on acetate of the same size that can each be placed in the frame. The greyscale tone of the prints, although unavoidable, worked to my advantage. I feel it has lent the images a 70s LA performance art feel, in the vein of Chris Burden and Bad Jan Ader.
Recently I have been commissioned by The Shed restaurant in Falmouth. The interior of the restaurant is designed in a rustic style, with bare brick walls and low lighting. The brief was basic: to produce 2 stylish, bold and retro feeling pieces in my pop art collage style to be hung in deep white frames. I chose the 2 house cocktails as subject matter, appropriating their names (Roxanne and Elvis Las Vegas) and searched through my archives of magazines and other media images ranging from the 1930s to present day. Roxanne evoked ideas of femininity, sexuality and elegance so I chose lips encircled by butterflies (also an homage to Hirst), whilst Elvis was even simpler. As the eponymous cocktails are red and blue, the color schemes for the work was evident. To obtain a sense of depth to the pieces, I have placed the collage materials on foam pads mounted on perspex panels, which will be inserted as a foreground to a screen-printed background of coloured dots (again, Hirst inspired). For this I will be collaborating with printmaker Amy Jefferies.