Inspiration comes from many sources, be it studio detritus, fly tipping, trans humanism, conspiracy theories or fast food, and although based somewhere in reality, the paintings are fairly undisturbed by the real world.
The paintings depict notional, metamorphic spaces containing their own logic, including shapes that have associations; something in a state of metamorphosis; something responding to an external force or inherent forms discovered in something exposed to an extreme event.
'Open' drawing is key in the construction of the work - I find it important to be as surprised or confused by the work as someone viewing the paintings for the first time would be. Using the right brain to construct the images, and the left-brain to refine them, would be a good way of explaining the process.
Have you always worked with painting? Tell me a little bit about your background.
I started a couple of photography courses at university, but became frustrated by the limitations of the technical processes, and wanted to explore a more idiosyncratic approach to image making. I went on to study painting in Cheltenham and Switzerland in the early 2000's and have been painting since then.
I recently completed 2 years at the Turps Banana Studio Painting Programme, where my practice changed beyond recognition. I rejected everything I had done before, and began to explore new ways of constructing paintings. Previously I had used photography as a starting point for paintings, but now I don't use any source material apart from what is around me in the studio. Since leaving, I have been making small, mixed media maquettes, which I then use as drawing and compositional aids.
I see that you have had a busy exhibition schedule during the last few years. Which shows do you consider the most important or enjoyable?
The most recent solo show at Unit 9 gallery was the most transformative in terms of how I construct the paintings, as I had a very limited amount of time to create a whole new body of work. It was also the first time I showed my maquettes alongside my paintings. The show I had at Castor Projects was the most technically challenging as the paintings were bespoke for the space. They had to be unstretched in my studio and then rebuilt in the gallery space.
Last year, you were a shortlisted prizewinner of the John Moores Painting Prize – how did that feel and what is up next?
I have a show penciled in for New York next spring, and will be participating in the Manchester Contemporary art fair in October, along with being part of a group show at Century Club through Castor Projects. Being a shortlisted prizewinner for the John Moores painting prize was a great experience, and I have met a lot of interesting people through that. Anything that raises your profile amongst your peers is of great benefit.
Ben recently had a solo exhibition at Unit 9 Gallery in London and was a prizewinner in the John Moores Painting Prize 2016.
His work is currently on view in the entrance to Century Club and he will be part of a larger group exhibition in the Club in October.
Maria Stenfors has more than 20 years of experience from the art world. She worked at several galleries in Stockholm and London, as well as an independent art advisor, prior to running her own eponymous contemporary art gallery in King’s Cross between 2010 and 2016. Passionate about ‘space and material’ she is an independent consultant alongside working in a gallery.