Frame 61

Benjamin Deakin

Frame 61
Benjamin Deakin
 

"the relationship between heightened physical experience and memory is something I'm trying to convey in the paintings."

 

Interview by writer Keanu Arcadio

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?

I studied at Central St Martins for my MA and Kingston University for my BA. I grew up in Cumbria and the proximity of the Lake District has undoubtably had an effect on my painting style and interest in landscape. Another key experience which informs my work has come through residencies and travels in fairly remote parts of the world. A three month residency in the Yukon in NW Canada where I worked in the former Klondike goldfields has been an abiding influence. I spent 3 months cycling though the Andes in 2012 and trips to Iceland and the Himalayas also creep into my work. I'm very interested in the cultural associations with certain places and the way that significance gets bestowed upon them, whether as National Parks, Mountains housing deities in Nepal or mystical sites in the Andes. 

From your latest paintings: Caesura, Reflector, Connator, to your early paintings in 2010 it seems that your colour palette has delved more into the psychedelic and tones of new aesthetics. Were there any pivotal moments that led to this?

I’ve been asked about this a lot recently, I don’t use any psychedelic substances I can assure you! The palette choice is an attempt to disrupt the spacial structure and perceived depth in the paintings. I use the optical qualities of certain colours (warm colours advance optically while cool colours recede) to do this. For instance I will often start a painting on a bright pink or orange ground which are colours that come forward despite them appearing as the furthest points in the painting.

  Compositor, 2018

Compositor, 2018

Following the line of your latest works, it seems that your approach has taken a more cataclysmic turn with nuances of seeping hedonism, almost like a jocular John Martin rendition of composition. Is there a specific place you visited to inform this approach to painting?

Experiences from different journeys has always and informed my paintings, the John Martin-esque appearance of some of the paintings may come from a residency in Iceland in 2015. I was very struck by how newly formed the countryside and geology seemed, there was still a palpable sense of movement in the flowing lava fields and rock forms. It kind of flips our assumptions about time and the permanence of the world around us. I feel that the hedonism might come rather from a seeping anxiety about the global changes we are experiencing and are causing at the moment. The Romantic paradigm with its obsession with the sublime power of nature seems to resonate amongst many artists again.

Wide panoramic landscapes run through most of your paintings, is this a compositional perspective you feel gives you more space to merge the natural and the urban?

I’m currently exploring the aesthetics of the theatre stage and the shifting planes of the urban environment to re-configure traditional attitudes to landscape painting. I feel that the effect is rather like a panoramic picture has been compressed and layered over itself to fit the picture plane in many cases.

  Connator, 2018

Connator, 2018

  Elisionator, 2018

Elisionator, 2018

  Caesura, 2018

Caesura, 2018

The approach to painting has changed drastically from the cubists, surrealists to the abstract expressionist. The aura of your paintings draw into an impressionist method of painting, what is the process of executing your paintings? Is it a case of studying a landscape and then drafting to then paint afterwards? Or is it more of an archival process of sourcing places to then collage them into painting?

Probably a bit of both. Whilst I try to pay very close visual attention to the places that I find myself in, the relationship between heightened physical experience and memory is something I'm trying to convey in the paintings. I’ve become increasingly interested in the ways in which the Impressionists and many of the surrealists were trying to deconstruct and reconfigure the way in which we see using colour, collage and non-conventional composition.

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

I was very struck by a work at the Hayward’s “Adapt to Survive” exhibition by Julian Charriere, who is showing a rock he has made. He has rock molten down and poured over consumer electronics to try to create the geology of the distant future in which all our human toys will become raw materials once more. There was something very beautiful and poetic as well as macho about it.

  Coadunator, 2018

Coadunator, 2018

  Navigator, 2017

Navigator, 2017

  Hid, 2016

Hid, 2016

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?

I’ve recently moved to a studio in Cubitt in Angel. It has all the creative shabbiness and the smell I remember from Art school which is great. For the last decade I’ve had studios in recently acquired buildings which don’t have the same character. My routine depends on whether I’m researching or painting. On a good day music and podcasts will keep me locked into the painting process for hours. There are a lot of revisions and false starts in my process, I sometimes have to switch from painting on the wall to the floor. The paintings often get completely transfigured or abandoned for months or years before re-surfacing when I’ve acquired the courage to completely revise them again. The layering in the work is as much consequence as intention!! 

Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

The most exciting thing has been my first solo show at the Concept Space in Bermondsey in which I made my first foray into sculpture. The show has just closed unfortunately but there are plans for it to live on in another form, I can’t say too much about this at present but it should be another exciting journey.

Artist's website

All images are courtesy of the artist
Publish date: 30/5/18