TELESCOPE: Benjamin Risk.
Leonardo da Vinci famously advised aspiring young painters to look at stains on a wall; Ben Risk’s magical, confounding paintings depend on this principle, weaving images between marks and stains that appear, in the early stages of painting, on the material he uses – linen, cotton bedsheets and paper…The theoretician and art historian Richard Wollheim called da Vinci’s faith in stained walls the act of ‘seeing in’ – the process of looking at an image and a surface as a twofold but single experience, like seeing forms in clouds. Ben capitalises on this foundation stone of representation in highly personal and lyrical ways, calling to mind artists like Craigie Aitchison, R.B Kitaj and Victor Willing – and of course Henry Tonks, the Slade professor who gave his name to the process of absorbing away Oil paint with paper to create soft and diffuse areas of colour.
Excerpt written by Nigel Cooke for the Telescope Exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery (now Hastings Contemporary) http://benrisk.org
There were no fixed plans upon starting at The Garage for the two month residency, although I had some vague ideas that the mass of accumulated material from my previous studio could somehow come into play. The space itself provided a ‘blank canvas’ in which to give some clarity to previous explorations. Over a period of about 7 or 8 years I had kept all of the paint rags (tonks), or pieces of cotton which had been used to soak up excess paint from paintings, some were testament to ‘trying things out’ and carried old motifs, marks and remnants from sections of paintings which had either been deemed too solid, or too derivative of artist which had come to occupy my mind.
Much has been said about stains, and staining, in relation to time. So it felt appropriate to give new life to the ‘paint rags’ by chopping, collaging and working back into the material to see if old marks could be given new life.
The residency proved to be extremely useful in terms of finding a way forward with the work, and testing out ideas without the commercial constraints of making finished work. Some of the preconceived ideas about what to do during a residency seemed to dissipate. Proving to me that working with instinct, and chance surpasses ‘having an idea’, which usually falls flat when trying to convey and retrieve some form of emotion in the work.