Ben Hope is the second artist to participate in The Reception Selection, a select grouping of works from Buy Art | Buy Now hung specially for the Mall Galleries reception at 17 Carlton House Terrace.
Depa Miah talks to Ben about his processes and inspirations.
Benjamin took an unconventional route to a career in art. Despite wanting to become a painter very early on, he decided to study Mathematics and Physics at university, which eventually led to a PhD from Cambridge. During his time in academia, he developed his painting in summer breaks and during a year out between degrees. After graduating from Cambridge, Benjamin had a spell as a “quant” in the City with the sole aim of setting up a studio in South East London. In 2011 he quit that job to focus on his art full-time.
Talk us through your creative process, how you decide on subject matter, scale etc?
This varies. I work from life almost exclusively. When painting outside I just walk around until something hooks me. It’s often something about the light or the shapes and juxtaposition of buildings. I then set up and start painting. I sometimes work in pastel but usually oil. Scale depends partly on what feels right but also on what I can physically carry (I don’t drive). I use a lot of painting mediums and what I choose often depends on the
light and time of day. For example, late in the evening when the sun is going down, I generally use an impasto medium whereas I paint more thinly when I’m interested in the detail of a daylight scene. I usually have multiple paintings on the go at once and I’m forever checking the weather and working out how I’m going to progress each one. Recently I have started to create very large studio paintings that are based on plein air studies. They aren’t just straightforward enlargements. I’ve been trying to develop the surface quality of my paint, which is something that can get neglected when working at speed on the street. Portraits and still life are a different game altogether. I wish I could spend a lifetime on each of these genres.
Is there a particular subject matter you enjoy most?
Once I’m in the swing of things, I see paintings everywhere. I think most artists experience this – it’s inspiring but also frustrating because the list of ideas and potential paintings grows too fast to keep up. That said I am particularly drawn to light striking rows of windows and I like compositions that are sliced up with verticals, which is often the case in cityscapes. I love sunsets, sunrises and the golden hour; old faces and hands; china and crockery wrapped in paper.
What are you working on at the moment/future plans?
I am currently working towards two shows: one in Gallery Different (15th to 24th June), which is a joint show with sculptor Ben Hooper; and the other with Island Fine Arts on the Isle of Wight (27th May to 24th June). They’re almost simultaneous so my current workload is fairly huge. I am particularly enjoying the large studio pieces since I am using a lot of new techniques.
Who are what are your inspirations/influences when it comes to landscapes and cityscapes, is there a place that inspires you most?
In terms of artists I’d name Ken Howard, Tom Coates, Pete Brown, Andrew Gifford, Roos Schuring (and many others). I couldn’t name a place that inspires me more than London but that’s probably because I’m painting it a lot at the moment. I tend to get inspired to paint wherever I am.
Where haven't you painted that you would really like to?
Various cities in the US. San Francisco in particular. Also I was on holiday on the east coast of Canada last year and was gripped by their incredible tangled mass of telegraph wires. I want to go back and paint them.