We recently spent the day on the outskirts of Brighton in a shared studio unit space catching up with Ben Allen who is busy generating work for his upcoming Solo show in May.
Observing him for a day you can tell he is methodical and observant in his approach. The floors of the studio are paint splattered and stencils are splayed on the surface. The shelves are staked deep with sprays and paint and the walls act as supports to the many leaning canvases. Willy Mason’s album is playing on the speakers and there is a calm but infectious buzz in the room.
The day to day structure Ben follows consists of planning his days the night before. He has in mind roughly or exactly what he is going to do and likes to always stick to it, although at times things go wrong or he has to change his idea. Sometimes he can be awake half the night thinking about an idea he has had. He will usually do any admin first as it will play on his mind and get in the way if it’s not done. Ben prefers painting in the afternoons as he hasn’t really warmed up till then.
When we ask Ben to describe himself he jokes that he has just been asked to write a verbal CV. He takes a moment to think about it. “I would say passionate, excitable, easily influenced, hopefully influential (without sounding egotistical), fun”. At this point Ben notices a tiny area in one of his canvas that he has missed, he laughs and says “there is always something”. He continues to list his qualities immediately adding very particular as one of them. “Stubborn, I like to think I can see things through, um honest, loving, fun, did I already say fun?” we make another note of fun and he laughs again. “How does one describe one’s self”? He lastly adds proud and obsessive about what he does.
At 17 Ben went travelling which saw him surfing in Indonesia, documenting the trip with photographs. He later took an inspiring trip to Mexico when he was 20 which led him to paint. Ben had always drawn as a kid and enjoyed it, but had no idea that it would snowball from his Mexico and turn into his career.
Mexico inspired him with the people and the culture, the colour vibe and landscape. The key influential artists for Ben include Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and modern day artists such as Shepard Fairey. Ben says his work is a mixture of Modern Abstract and Pop Art. “Anyone who is doing those three things with pretty loud colours I usually like”.
“I like Takashi Murakami, his colour and intricate Graphic Design. I am heavily influenced by VCJ who did the original skateboard artwork for Powell Peralta and Jim Phillips who did a lot of work for Santa Cruz”. Skateboard and Surfing culture has always been a big interest for Ben as a hobby but also the fashion and artwork that is typically associated with it. “Tattoo art, I like the classic snake’s, dragons, Koi and skulls”.
Ben has taken on a new interest as he has ‘grown up’ of downhill mountain biking. When asked he says that he wouldn’t describe it as safer as he recently travelled out to the Alps and whilst doing the trails he damaged his painting hand. “I am right handed although sometimes I feel there are so many things I want to achieve in a day it would be great to be ambidextrous, or have a several clones”.
Ben’s career is a story of a self taught Artist who has found success by putting in a lot of hard work and determination. Ben always knew he wanted to make his own journey in life but says he had no idea it would be within Art. He hated school and had bad grades. He found himself going to college for a year to retake exams, but was disillusioned with life and his surroundings.
The more involved he has become in the art world the more he can see how far it can go. He points out its more about personal satisfaction for him than reaching the top of his game, but part of that is taking it as far as he possibly can. “What interests me most about being an Artist is there are no ends there are no boundaries only the ones you set yourself. There is always going to be a Gallery, there is always going to be a show, there will always be a new colour to use. It’s boundless”. He stresses that this is what really excites him about it.
When asked about his expectations and if they have changed and he reveals that they've got bigger yet more realistic at the same time. “I am still always learning about how to achieve it. Every piece I do and every show I do there is always something I take out of it. It’s a constant process and it’s not just how to paint better but it’s how to be an artist I suppose, how to make a living.”
Ben has produced 30 new paintings for his solo show as well as some 3D pieces and he says there will definitely be some new editions released from the show.