:: Ben Brown – Since Forever

If you ask any Manly local how long artist Ben Brown’s been around they’ll probably tell you “Since Forever!”.   Ben’s been kicking around Manly as a surfer, musician and an artist since you could still buy a old terrace on Carlton St for a reasonable six figure sum.  His place in Manly has influenced his art and Manly’s culture is thick with Ben’s brushstrokes.  Whether he’s designing the North Steyne Boardriders latest t-shirt print or a Pearl Jam Tour poster his art is as relevant, talked about and sought after in the studios and boardrooms of youth culture now as it was since forever ago!

This Friday Ben Brown’s Solo Exhibition “Since Forever” will open at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum and you can expect all the misfits, groupies, skaters, headbangers and art collectors to turn up.

I caught up with Ben in his studio for a quick chat.

Your Exhibition “Since Forever” opens at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum this Friday, what can we expect?

Lots of colour and a bit of humour. I like to work with bright poster style colours, my background is in illustration, t-shirts and poster design and the like, so I like to work with thick expressive lines and bright bold colours. I will be showing about ten new large original paintings on canvas and 15 limited edition framed prints. I will also be launching a new range of quality screen printed t-shirts, that will be available on the night too. In addition to that there will be live t-shirt screen printing with my friends ‘Hit + Run’. It is a lot of fun, you pick the design you want and we will print it right in front of you to take home that night.

You’re illustrations have featured on t-shirts, posters and framed on the walls of fine art galleries. Is there a natural home for your art, a place where you think it sits most comfortably?  

I think my work is at home on a grommets bed room wall, on a t-shirt, a record cover or in a gallery. It comes directly from the sub cultures it deals with, be it surfing, skateboarding, street art, music or what ever. It is often very tongue in cheek and not to be taken seriously. Skulls are a major feature of my work, but not in a ghoulish, tough guy manner, more ironic and fun.

I have worked with Manly Art Gallery a lot over the last few years when the Arts Festival is on doing live painting outside and fun things like that, so to be asked to do a ‘proper’ show inside is great. We hung the show this morning and it looks great in a gallery setting like that. I think its fantastic that the gallery is reaching out to a different younger audience. It sits in there very comfortably.

Beside’s the obvious client driven constraints, is there much of a difference in your creative process between working on exhibition pieces as opposed to commercial work? 

Not really – it is driven by the lifestyle you are appealing to, so weather it is a poster and branding for an event or a piece for a gallery show it is all heading in the same direction and utilising the same themes. Sometimes with commercial work the brief may include some elements that are hard to tie in to the graphic idea, but that is easy to overcome. Exhibition pieces for me have no story, message or theme most of the time – it is just the fun of creating something dynamic and fun that would look good on your wall at home. I don’t really see a great distinction between the two. I am luck that most commercial and commissioned work crosses over with the silly and childish pictures I would make regardless of what it might be for!

The exhibition launch is this Friday 19th December from 6pm – 8pm at Manly Art Gallery & Museum – everyone is welcome. The show runs until the 8th of February and is kid friendly, you won’t see anything scarier than what is on most kids t-shirts and skate decks. I am doing some work shops with kids in the school holidays (Wednesday 21st January 10am-12noon & 2-4pm) and will also give an artists talk (Sunday 18 January 2-3pm) – booking is essential so call the gallery on 9976 1421 or email [email protected]

Ben Brown - http://www.benbrown.com.au/

Manly Art Gallery & Museum - http://www.manly.nsw.gov.au/attractions/gallery/upcoming-exhibitions/