HUNG & DRAWN /ART NEWS BY FRANCESCA GAVIN
Ben Sansbury Unveils his monstrous masks
Ben Sansbury is an artist’s artist. For the past few years he has been holed away in his studio in Dalston, creating strange multimedia artworks that have had his contemporaries knocking at his door. There is something tribal and strangely psychedelic about his work; there are the totemic wall monsters that resemble a 3D Arcimboldo made of children’s wooden blocks, the misty photographs of the six-foot-five artist hidden behind sculptural masks and paintings on wood panels dripping with layers. Although he studied at St Martins and the Royal College of Art, this is an artist who has invented his own world; his own outsider lexicon. His much anticipated solo show at SPACE Studios, AMAXAMA, opens this May. Catch him while you can.
Are you interested in creating fictional and psychedelic space?
ben sansbury: I wanted to create new fantastical worlds or environments. Space is a great metaphor for the unknown, its infinite potentiality has fascinated us for millennia. Our awareness of space, whether conscious or not, has been a constant influence on our species forever.
What interests you so much about masks ? I’m interested in myth and legend. The universality of myths that occur throughout the history of mankind is amazing. The recurrence of themes in mythology despite culture, locality or epoch demonstrate human universals; instincts deeply embedded in all our psyches that manifest our collective wisdom and experience as a species. The wearing and making of masks is an integral part of this. Look at someone’s body language when wearing a mask and they exude a totally different energy and confidence. There seems to be layer upon layer of materials in your paintings. As the work develops it accumulates. None of my work is produced in a linear fashion. I’m not interested in ‘one-hit’ ideas. I prefer to work intuitively adding or removing material as an image or form becomes apparent. I like to look at things, absorb information and then see where they emerge in my work. I want references from across the board – from so-called ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural references. I want my work to be some kind of combination of instinct, intuition and reference. Some of your photographic works are almost remnants of performance or portraiture… I started to make lots of self-portraits, using myself as a vehicle to create characters. I wanted to be able to perform, move and document alone – allowing me to become both the voyeur and subject at the same time. The image becomes the only record of that moment, scene and character. The image contains the energy and atmosphere of the performance action – oblique, ritualistic and spiritual. Tell us about your forthcoming show at SPACE, how did it all come about? I met Paul Pieroni (SPACE curator) via a mutual friend. He has great energy, dynamism and an immense enthusiasm for art in all its variety and strata. I think what he is doing at SPACE is very exciting and his approach truly modern and inclusive. I am honoured to be involved with what he is creating.
Ben Sansbury’s Studio Soundtrack:
1. David Mancuso mixtapes 2. Music Is A Special Gift –Fergadelic 3. Boy George Michael AKA Tony
Panettone mixtapes 4. DJ Harvey mixtapes 5. Daniele Baldelli mixtapes
(from the mid-80s) 6. Moondog 7. Luther 8. Geto Boys 9. DJ Chaos Mix
(from EYE of The Boredoms) 10. Gong 11.Rub And Tug –Anything mixtape 12.Ron Hardy – Music Box, 1983 13.Balearic Mike –Cosmic
Alphonsusmixtape 14.Ali Farka Touré & Toumani
Diabeté 15.Rollerboys – BIS mixtapes 16.Spirit –FutureGames ext francesca gavin All stills: ‘Untitled’2009 AMAXAMA is at SPACE Studios, May 13 – June 19 spacestudios.org.uk