I grew up in a funny little place called Dunmoochin, near St. Andrews, north east of Melbourne. People thought the name was Aboriginal and wondered what it meant. It isn’t a Koori word, it’s a Bogan word, meaning much the same as Dunroamin’. It was an artist’s colony, but the locals called it a nudist colony, just because we all ran around without our clothes on in the heat of summer. Consequently l was steeped in art and nudity.
From a very early age l was only interested in money, stealing lollies off the rich kids and selling them to the poor kids, stashing the proceeds in an old stump, selling my birthday presents to my siblings, that sort of thing, just the usual stuff that normal healthy five year olds get up to. But my overbearing father was fixated on me achieving the artistic success that was showered upon his friends in the artist/nudist colony, but had somehow alluded him.
He made me draw every evening after school. It was only after that l could sneak out and run my swollen fingers through my beloved stash of coins.
If l put the pencil down for even a minute he would become enraged and glue it to my fingers with Clagg. After some time my fingers and my pencils become one, growing from my hands like fingernails. If l didn’t draw everyday, my pencils would just grow and grow. During adolescence my pencil fingers miraculously turned into paint brushes and began painting pictures of naked women of their own volition. Thus l grew to be an artist. l don’t know anything else.
Did you chose your art subject or did it choose you?
I just paint whatever is in front of me. When l lived in the bush, l painted trees and shrubs. When l moved to St.Kilda, l painted scenes of decadence and debauchery. Then, when my over-sensitive senses could stand it no longer, l moved to the country and painted cows and roadkill.
What is art for you, what does it do for you?
Your umwelt is everything in the environment that surrounds you, that you can perceive with your five senses. What an artist does, is enrich those perceptions and make them more meaningful. If we write a song about an experience, that experience is seared more deeply into our consciences.
If we paint a picture of a mountain, the mountain seems to exist more strongly than it did before, we feel more connected to that mountain. It has more meaning. If we continue in this vein we expand our umwelt to include not only the natural environment we encounter every day with our five senses, but also the world we have created in our imagination, ideally a richer deeper world than the original. So when an artist enters her studio, she enters a very special world of her own making. A world that no one else can inhabit, but some are allowed to glimpse occasionally.
This is the primary work of the artist, to create a dimension of reality that accentuates and explores the most fascinating aspects of the original, a hyper reality that can be scarier than the boring old reality of the outside world, or it can be a reassuring place that makes you feel safe, or both.
Ben will be showing work in the Castlemaine State Festival Open Studios program
Dates & Times : Daily throughout the fesitval 10am – 5pm
CASPA Studios, above Stonemans Bookroom, Cnr Hargraves & Moyston Sts, Castlemaine
For more information about Ben and his work visit his website.