Ben Young paints gestural, often collage-based paintings in his New York studio, in a process that embraces and pushes the nature of intuition and accident in making. More at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m a British artist from London, living and working in New York City. I graduated from Central St Martins in 2007 with an MA in Fine Art.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I became interested in art as a teenager, especially Bacon and Freud. In my early twenties I moved onto Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists. At age 24 I finally decided to paint seriously. I am still mainly interested in abstraction although figurative elements do creep into my work. A face, a hand, a leg, a dog…
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I would say that most of my work revolves around the idea of disorder and how to make art out of it. In the limited space of the canvas I’m constantly experimenting to see how you can depict disorder and chaos in a convincing way. I’m a real nature lover and I think the balance of entropy and decay with new, thrusting life enthralls me. This aesthetic awareness has entered my work, I think.
What is your process like?
My method of painting composition is mostly spontaneous, utilizing accident. But the process follows a pattern in that I often work with collaged newspaper which forms the background and backdrop to my paintings. The newspapers are a visual metaphor for dead leaves. Dead, useless leaves fall off the tree (are discarded) but become fodder for new life. Similarly, old useless news is discarded but provides new artistic (meaningful) life on my canvases. The obsolete headlines become jumbled up and divorced from their original context, and as I Paint on them words get obliterated and individual words or letters stand out, totally reconfiguring the meaning of these discarded ‘dead leaves’. In this way my paintings illustrate or give a visual analogy of the balance of entropy and life in nature. But the goal is purely an aesthetic one – this use of newspapers but also spray paint, the paint of choice for disaffected urban dwellers is merely a means of arriving at, hopefully, a new kind of picture.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Antoni Tapies advised young artists to read as much as possible – saying that technical ability will come with practice, but that one must educate oneself fully to have as clear an idea as possible about the art one intends to make. I’ve found this very helpful. David Bowie also said the job of the artist is to make work outside of one’s comfort zone – to always be slightly out of one’s depth. It’s there where you feel uncomfortable and possibly afraid that true art is most likely to come from.
What is your studio like?
Moderately messy. An ordered chaos.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
To be quite frank, the difficulty of making ends meet, paying your rent. Even if you sell your work for decent prices, if you don’t sell often enough how are you going to survive? I currently have an existential crisis with my New York Studio. I love it, it’s the perfect studio for me but the rent is going to bankrupt me at this rate. I’ve been living from my art for over a decade now but it can get to the point where you are no longer able to practice due to serious financial constraints. That is by far the most frustrating aspect of being an artist.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Passionate. Intense. Energetic
What are you working on right now?
More newspaper collage paintings.