BENJAMIN BRIDGES: Pythagoras Adrift
14 March - 12 April 2014
dalla Rosa Gallery | 121 Clerkenwell Road | London EC1R 5BY | dallarosagallery.com
Pythagoras Adrift installation view, Benjamin Bridges (L), C and F, (R) Pythagoras (2013), oil on canvas, 41 x 51 cm
BENJAMIN BRIDGES: PYTHAGORAS ADRIFT 14 March – 12 April 2014 dalla Rosa is delighted to present Pythagoras Adrift, Benjamin Bridges first solo exhibition at the gallery. Working on canvas, board, and paper the artist has created a new body of work that focuses on compositional balance, pairings of colours, line and application of paint. Bridges’ recent paintings – especially the ones on canvas – explore ways of creating texture, using paint in a much looser manner to reveal his layering technique in a less controlled way. Structures defined by neat lines are counterbalanced by washed-down backgrounds that emphasize the perception of liquid drift. I loved the Perspex surfaces I was working on for a long time. It was so smooth and flat and the edges were stunning, but the moment I wanted to push more movement and energy into the painting, it just couldn’t handle it. I had discovered its qualities but also its limitations and had grown weary of it. I found it restrictive. I started looking back at the surfaces I had used before, namely canvas and mdf and at what artists had been using for thousands of years. I took the plunge and bought a big box of canvass frames and varying mdf panels. Working on them has really opened up the possibilities, allowing me to be far more aggressive with the paint and more versatile in the application. These surfaces give me a chance to push myself, and even alter my practice and aims mid way through a painting if I so choose. In essence that’s what’s represented in this show. It is about reaching, maybe even groping in the dark for some ideas, where the surface is the place on which the idea is worked out rather that where it is illustrated. (Benjamin Bridges, 2014) Along with the canvas works, Bridges has explored the use of dark tones on board, a series that he defined as ‘blanks’. These smaller paintings are studies on composition, framing the outer edges (round or square) with vibrant colours and adding a few touches of paint that suggest depth and movement. Considering these works Bridges wrote: I think the framing gives them a context, and the darkness is a void, and any mark made in the space is a kind of pure gesture, floating in the darkness, alone and isolated. It has room to breath, and sit and rest in the minds eye. Two series of large graphite drawings also highlight similar themes, building line and composition within framed areas. Using the same size paper he took different approaches to geometry, expressing the push and pull between extreme order and chaos. In one case a controlled study on well-defined lines (how to construct a box), and in the other a progressive implosion of angular shapes (particles bouncing within a space). About the Artist Benjamin Bridges is an artist, curator, and documentary producer based in London. He started showing while studying Fine Art Painting at Wimbledon (2007-10) , and had two solo exhibitions at ARTTRA (Amsterdam) in 2010 and 2013. He took part in group shows at dalla Rosa (2012 and 2013), Transition Gallery (2013), and Matthews Yard (Croydon, 2013) among others.
opposite: Benjamin Bridges, Mirror (2013), oil on board, 25 x 35 cm oval
Bridges was short listed for the 2009 Prunella Clough Painting Prize, and took part in the Royal Academy Summer Show (2008 and 2012) and the 2013 Threadneedle Prize. In 2012 he set up Hollow Earth London, a fine arts platform showcasing emerging talent in London through artists interviews and documentaries.
Benjamin Bridges, They came from the hills, a merrymaking (2014), foam, card, gesso, talc, oil paint, 21 x 21 x 11 cm
Benjamin Bridges, Platoâ€™s mother was a very fine lass (2014), foam, card, gesso, talc, oil paint, 9 x 9 x 9 cm
BENJAMIN BRIDGES Q&A WITH GIOVANNA PATERNO’ GP: Looking at your recent work you seem to paint more on canvas and board, is there a specific reason for this change? BB: I loved the perspex surface I was working on for a long time. It was so smooth and flat and the edges were stunning, but the moment I wanted to push more movement and energy into the painting, it just couldn’t handle it. I had discovered its qualities but also its limitations and found I was restricted. I looked back at the surfaces I had used before - namely canvas and mdf - and looked at what artists had been using for a thousand years and took a punt on it. I bought a big box of canvas frames and varying mdf panels. It’s great and has really opened up possibilities, I can be far more aggressive with the paint and more versatile in the application. I didn’t want to be another artist that finds a style and an approach and spends their life making one type of work. I feel that work like that is interesting when first approached but after a while it all becomes a long sequence of sameness, where the artist appears to have given up on risk-taking and challenging themselves. These surfaces allow me to push myself, and even alter my practice and aims mid-way through a painting. GP: Your new paintings explore new ways of creating texture, especially on canvas the paint is much looser and reveals your layering technique in a less ‘controlled’ way – does this mark a new phase of your practice? Did you struggle with the idea of dealing with less defined lines? BB: It’s hard for me not to be neat, tidy and use razor thin lines. I like control and the fact that detailed work shows an easily recognisable skill. You can instantly see if someone is a good technician. There are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about it. You can also tick the boxes as you go along, marking out the stages necessary to complete the task. But is can be so dull. Paint has a unique quality, it is in essence a thick liquid that flows and sets while still looking wet. It’s hard not to look and move it around. I felt my paintings lacked that aspect of pleasure. The colours were right, and the composition was strong and the ideas were compelling, but the application of the paint was bland. In the end unless a painting is able to enunciate the paint as paint I’m not sure what use it is. GP: The paintings on board from late 2013 explore the possibilities of composition against a pitch-black background, gesture seems to take a leading role with bold and (seemingly) free strokes of vibrant colour. In terms of paint application they could constitute a bridge between your hyperrealistic work from the past years and the new paintings on canvas. What are your thoughts about the development of this body of work?
opposite: Benjamin Bridges, Terminus (2014), detail, oil on canvas, 51 x 51 cm
BB: These “blanks” are funny pieces. I had been trying to paint a portrait and it wasn’t working at all. My palette was covered in an almost black green. I painted the whole thing and then on a whim framed it by removing the paint with a wet wipe. I almost made them as a joke aimed at myself. I thought for a long time they were ludicrous. And I couldn’t see what was going on, but the more I saw them the more I felt there was something there. It was an odd process, a kind of recognition. I have the same feeling sometimes when I am introduced to someone else’s practice. I see their work and my first impression is not good. But it sticks in the mind, burrows in and each time you see it again more seems to come into focus. That happened to me, which is odd as I made them in the first place, but I still had no idea what they were about. I painted more “blanks” and someone pointed out they were compositional pieces. That was right,
it made sense. They remind me of the polyhedrons I made a year before which were set in space. Neither set of paintings worked when I tried them on different coloured backgrounds. I think framing gives them a context, and the darkness is a void, and any mark made in the space is a kind of pure gesture, floating in the darkness, alone and isolated. It has room to breath, and sit and rest in the mindâ€™s eye. GP: You have been working on two series of drawings that in a way reflect your recent paintings. Using the same size paper you take different approaches to geometry, in one case a controlled study on well defined lines, and in the other a progressive implosion of angular shapes. What was the starting point for these series? Do you see them as somehow related? BB: For both of these series I chose drawing instead of painting because the idea seemed to be solely
about line. I had made the painting Palm Beach and was intrigued by these small angular interactions. I was thinking about particles bouncing within a space, like those diagrams you see in school which demonstrate the state of a gas in a box. All the lines join up, if you follow one it will lead you to another and in theory as long as you don’t get lost you can make your way round the whole volume. It’s just another one of those ideas that seemed vitally important for a few days while I worked on them but even now it seems hard to qualify why. The second series are the “boxes”. I was out and the structure of the first box with a lid on popped into my mind. I think it’s a similar image as the new Bowie album cover, which zoomed past me on a bus. I wanted the working and measuring out of the box to be visible, like it’s some kind of meaningful architectural or physical structure. I then took the second drawing - which is the same box - and reinforced it with cross braces. The third drawing, the star variant, is just the cross braces. GP: Tell me about the title of your solo exhibition, Pythagoras Adrift – how did it came about? BB: One of the paintings is called Pythagoras. I like the fact that it plays to this serious mathematical icon, but what you see is a washy painting. For the title I pictured Pythagoras at a desk on a raft drifting on the ebb and flow of the waves, quill in hand, diligently working away at his problems. A man oblivious of the isolation and in a sense futility of his actions. I often think about the meaning of painting and art in general. We build our view of the world on these little islands of what we assume are concrete values, and yet they are so relative, so insecure, always questionable. With the title Pythagoras Adrift I wanted to convey a sense of order and purpose, which can also be unstable and unresolved. GP: Edges are taking a more relevant role in your paintings, are you aware of ‘framing’ the composition or is it an instinctive process? BB: Both. During any period of my painting practice there seems to be a common solution to the problems I am facing. In the past these solutions included giving an abstract object legs or painting a circle or polyhedron in the landscape and now there is this edging, framing device. I think it comes from wanting to isolate space. To underline that I am forming a new space, not as a crop of a larger image but as a unique space in its own right.
(London, February 2014)
opposite: Benjamin Bridges, Reinforced (2013), detail, graphite and marker pen on paper, 59 x 84 cm previous pages: Pythagoras Adrift, installation view
Benjamin Bridges, Penguin Pipe (2013), oil on board, 38 x 47 cm
BENJAMIN BRIDGES Education 2007-10 BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting (1st), Wimbledon College of Art (London) Solo Exhibitions 2014 Pythagoras Adrift, dalla Rosa Gallery (London) 2013 We are the World, We are the Bomb, ARTTRA (Amsterdam) 2010 Benjamin Bridges, ARTTRA (Amsterdam) Selected Group Exhibitions 2014 London Art Fair with dalla Rosa Gallery, Art Projects, Business Design Centre, Islington Spring Fever, Saatchi Gallery at Hyatt Regency (30 Portman Square, London W1H 7BH) 2013 Atomic, offsite exhibition curated by Transition Gallery (London) Threadneedle Prize, Mall Galleries (London) HELP (Hollow Earth London Painters), curating and exhibiting, SIX space (Bournemouth) Cluster, group exhibition, dalla Rosa Gallery (London) Look, See and Tell, curated by Marianne Schutte at Kring Space (Amsterdam) Bizarro Filter, curating and exhibiting, Lewisham Art House (London) Going back to where I used to stand, Stichting IK (Netherlands) Owl Service, Transition Gallery (London) Form From Form, exhibition co-curated with Michael O’Reilly, Matthews Yard (Croydon) 2012 CROSS SECTION/02: Benjamin Bridges & Catrin Morgan, dalla Rosa Gallery (London) Royal Academy Summer Show, Royal Academy of Arts (London) 2010 Generation 10, Hyatt Regency London, The Churchill Hotel (London) 2009 Abstract Landscapes, Wimbledon Library (London) 2008 Deutsche Postbank Exhibition, Deutsche Postbank Offices (London) Royal Academy Summer Show, Royal Academy of Arts (London) State of the Art, finalists exhibition at The Royal College of Arts (London) in association with The Prince’s Trust and Blackwood Group Awards and Residencies 2009 Short listed for the Prunella Clough Painting Prize 2006 – 07 Artist in Residence, London Road Art School, Cheshire Collections University of the Arts (London) Landmark Plc (London) Britannia Engineering Consultancy Ltd (London)
ÂŠ 2014 Benjamin Bridges & dalla Rosa Gallery, all rights reserved. Installation photos by Philip John Jones. dalla Rosa Gallery | 121 Clerkenwell Road | London EC1R 5BY | dallarosagallery.com