The sensations of weight, of fluidity frozen, of movement
stilled, of softness hardened, of forces held in tension – just,
precariously, in check - combine with the invented new forms
to produce entities creating complex sensations.
The forms have an elusive familiarity: evocative, sometimes
suggestive of objects ( organic, industrial, even genital) and of
interactions of objects, which are convincing and genuine.
Materials and forms interact physically and spatially, heightening
the ability of these works to arrest attention, demand prolonged
scrutiny, to engage the eye and imagination.
Keith Passingham 1996.
Each of Bens sculptures is a kind of anti- object despite there often powerful physicality. Through a series of reversals or contradictions each piece is born eloquently mute. Every one is a repeated journey from the physical certainty of materials to the unknown, the place of origination. The place where the object came into being. That place from where the world is re-created.
There is a sort of surface tension in the work that endows the materials with meaning. Because the materials are so blatantly used in a way that is demanded by there inherent characteristics one is first caught up in trying to understand any given piece by its use of these materials. But the artists deadpan handling, a particular line closer to casualness that exactitude, denies this access. This is, I believe, a deliberate denial of accepted formal conventions, ( especially those of the current vogue for the “ corporate” aesthetic ). The surface, then, is the first area where we meet contradiction. We look for clues but they aren’t there in form we expect.
The other common access to seemingly abstract work is through analogy or association. Many of Bens sculptural forms look oddly familiar and this tends to invite associations. The truth is, in fact, that the more associations one makes in front of the work the more one is failing to follow the demands of the pieces. I mean that these associations are the luggage we are asked to abandon before we proceed beyond the surface. It is the crucial point where one surrenders accepted order, that scaffold for reality, and enters a new world.
The familiarity of the forms is the pivotal point between our everyday reality and the possibilities of this new world. The familiar domestic and industrial forms strengthen the strangeness of these objects by showing the closeness of that new place, it is with us wherever we are – concealed or freed only by our perceptions.
Ben uses repetition as a device which points us away from the individual work and its connotations of value and toward “individual” as a form of variation (ie the differences between similar things). He makes groups of works ( repeated forms) rather than single one off pieces. The repeated forms in a single gesture of making give us access to the static meaning of these pieces. They are not progressive works but ones that define an area of contemplation. They are talismans of the real work , that of defining the original space which brought into being the first object.
K J Andrews 1994.