Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF
Monday 01 October 2018 – Thursday 31 October 2019
Image: Ben Risk, Fieldwork (cornflower), 2016, oil on panel.
Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. January's Artist of the Month is Ben Risk.
Hello Ben, what do you do?
I paint and make prints – mostly, but often work with other media; photography, sculpture, film and animation, in order to realise an idea. I’m also curating a group show which will take place in Glasgow, early 2018.
Where are you based?
I live and work in Bristol. It’s a wonderfully vibrant and multicultural place to be. I moved here in 2003 after living and working in Hebden Bridge as a gallerist, artist and blacksmith. Bristol was a stark and welcome contrast to the shadowy mill towns of West Yorkshire. The Arnolfini (one of the reasons for moving to Bristol), still had a ‘spit and sawdust’ bar, and I became involved with the street scene which was peaking at the time. Life gathered pace and I’m still here.
What’s the best thing about your studio?
It’s affordable which means I can take time to develop my work without too many financial pressures – it’s chilly in the winter (tin roof), baking in the summer (slippery paint). The studio is part of cluster of buildings which houses carpenters, artists, ceramicists and other makers. We have regular conversations, but I can hide away too – which I like.
What does 'success' mean to you?
Living life without regrets, and within the context of ‘being an artist’, I don’t know yet. Perhaps it’s simply affording the luxury of continuing to make work, or making work which connects with people. I have a young family, so rationalising ‘success’ is multifaceted, and getting the balance right is an ongoing conundrum. The dream – more adventures in foreign lands to extend the visual vocabulary, and building a studio on a remote west highland island where great things can happen.
Do you earn a living from making art?
Not entirely, I have a part time job which complements my studio practice.
What makes a good artwork?
That’s a highly subjective question…something that makes you feel or think about the world differently, or connects you to a time and place or makes you cry, or laugh, or jump up and down.
What have you got coming up?
I’m very excited about the forthcoming group show this January at London Art fair with LLE Gallery as part of 'Dialogues' curated by Miguel Amado, and monoprinting with Tom Hammick this spring at his studio in London. There’s also some work heading to Aalborg, Denmark for a group show at Gallery Wolfsen in March and some monoprints heading to Brussels for the Brussels Art Fair with First Contemporary. Oh and creating some print editions at Spike Island and continuing to develop the river project for Glasgow/ Bristol 2018. Time permitting I hope to visit Copenhagen and Oslo with some new painter friends from the UK.
Born - Glasgow, 1978
Studied - BA Fine Art/Craft - Manchester Metropolitan University
Risk's work draws upon a wealth of sources: philosophy, poetry, film, travel and daily encounters - translating the unconscious thought and imagination into paintings. His highly personal, reimagined ‘scapes’ always reference the real world.
The everyday imagery of streets, houses, trees, animals and people are configured into dreamlike spaces and environments inviting the viewer on a familiar but surreal adventure. Alongside the ‘scapes’ - sea, land or city, he has developed a series of ‘socio mythic’ characters which appear as a semi-fictional cast. Men in hats, people with animal-like features and semi-realistic ‘heads’, these all form part of an ongoing exploration.
Risk enjoys discovering new ways of working with materials, the marks on used book covers, for example, or the unstableness of ‘used cloth’ and paint, which challenge and extend his visual thinking. It forces him to make decisions more quickly, to reduce the amount of information and still evoke a strong feeling or story and sense of place.
Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.
Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network