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A Difficult Negotiation

Converse Highlight: Jose Freire Selects Ben Washington

The NY gallery director selects the rising sculptural artist for artist of the week

The final artist selected from the Converse/Dazed Emerging Artist Award inbox is Ben Washington. From across the seven weeks of the prize, NYC's Team gallery director Jose Freire has chosen the work of Ben Washington as his favourite submission. Washington's sculptural works have been shown at the Nunnery and Bow Arts open and 'Paper' at the Saatchi gallery. The prize is now closed and the shortlisting from over 1600 submissions will take place over the Summer. Watch out for the exhibition and award ceremony in Autumn 2013...

Dazed Digital: What drew you to the work?  
Jose Freire: What attracted me at first was the sculptural integrity of the work — the materials, their conflations and the manner in which they are dispersed through the gallery space. This is talent, clearly, but that’s not all Washington has to offer – after all, there are many artists successfully using modernist tropes to re-invigorate the dialogue around found and debased materials. It is the manner in which digital space, arcade language, gaming culture and architectural aesthetics are addressed that make Washington’s work singular and compelling. The balance of sophistication and clumsiness, intelligence and poetics, reserve and showmanship mark this as work to be seriously considered. This stuff is smart and endearing at the same time.

Where's the best place you've found for young art talent?
Things come at me from all over: curators, critics and artists all make recommendations. Studying galleries and museums of interest is crucial to keeping up with things as are (increasingly) Instagram and Facebook.

Why is a prize for emerging artists so important?
Prizes focus attention on someone who might otherwise be ignored.

What do you look for when selecting work?
Originality and derivation in equal parts.

What do you hope to find in a young artist?
An accomplice.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given and the best piece of advice you have to give?  
No one has ever given me advice – I’ve learned from trial and error. Here is some advice: listen to everyone and no one.

Where do you find your own inspiration?
I love what I do. I live in a world full of inspiration and both good and bad art can drive my actions.

Dazed Digital: What aspects of your work do you frequently return to in your practice?
Ben Washington: 
The work frequently involves the representation or recreation of architectural structures and desolate or remote landscapes. Often highlighting the individual’s relationship to those environments and structures.

DD: What is at the core of your work?
Ben Washington: At its core my work deals with how we understand and deal with space, be that 3-dimensional, pictorial, virtual or imaginary. It draws heavily from historical attempts to describe space, ranging from Giotto's early attempts to create realistic 3-dimensional representations, to Hiroshige's highly composed and formalized Japanese landscapes. It often makes reference to these established perspectives but by subverting them in some way it essentially messes further with the expectations we have of the objects and environments we use to define ourselves.   

DD: What is it about contemporary graphics and software that you like?
Ben Washington: There's a range of things that draws me towards contemporary graphics and software. I think one of the most arresting for me is that it seems to fall somewhere between real physical space and pictorial space. It allows for the explorative qualities that real space gives you, but also lends you the ability to create the physically impossible which can usually only be done pictorially.  

DD: Describe your process?
Ben Washington: My process is quite a back-and-forth affair, with objects and images constantly flickering between different types of space. At some points existing solely on the computer, then made physically real, then photographed and partially brought back into virtual space, amended and re-arranged again. Like a snake eating it's own tail, at times it's hard to figure at where the starting point was.     

DD: What's your everyday inspiration?
Ben Washington: Tea and crumpets is usually enough to get me through.

DD: What's the best exhibition you've seen in the last six months?
Ben Washington: Loch, by Gelitin at the 21er Haus, Museum of Contemporary Art in Vienna, Austria.

DD: What living artist do you most admire?
Ben Washington: The Gelitins, Toby Ziegler and Sarah Lucas.

DD: What is it about being an artist that drives you?
Ben Washington: If I could answer that I probably wouldn't need to make art.

DD: What's your next project?
Ben Washington: A group show organised by the Viennese collective Dienstag Abend that will be showing at the new Art Review offices/bar. 

DD: If money was no object..?
Ben Washington: I'd need to pretend I was penniless in order to remember how I ever got anything done.