Hello Benjamin, could you please tell us how you became acquainted with your magnificent technique?
I initially studied fashion design which introduced me to working with fabric, and later I began exploring the idea of ‘painting with fabric’ to create sculptural artworks away from the body. I focused on creating portraits quite early on to demonstrate the techniques I was developing with tulle. The idea of manipulating a single length came later, around 2008 and I’m still fascinated by the scope of ideas it inspires.
The diaphanous quality of tulle holds intrinsic evocations by nature. When seeing it, one thinks about fragility, ephemerality, and the delicate, but your women seem strong, enduring and arresting. Would you care to clarify this duality?
We live in an era of great distraction. It’s easy to be swept up in external forces and to some degree lose sight of who we are and what’s important to us. There’s a vulnerability in navigating a chaotic world that continually bombards our senses, and there’s strength in being able to see through it, to find clarity, to stay centered and become invigorated by our own internal guide. The Flows literally and metaphorically reflect that idea of finding clarity out of chaos – each piece depicts a meditative face, formed from a single length of tulle.
Existing in the realms of high art and fashion, your sculptural pieces defy simple definition. Fashion is believed to be what we wear, but often this can become as simple as a stole or robe. In seeing the ease of adaptable application, where do you insist your work should stand?
I’m not fixated on a specific arena – I’m most interested in playing with that juxtaposition of surreality and reality.
In our modern world beauty exists everywhere and is thus taken for granted, but your work makes us stop and contemplate. When we appreciate your technique what should we be thinking?
I hope it provides a form of escapism that draws the viewer in beyond the initial spectacle or emotional response, and into the technical aspect. I believe works that hold a viewer’s attention serve a useful purpose, to jolt the mind into an entirely new set of thoughts. I think that’s a very beneficial experience.
Seeing that you have such gratitude for delicacy and the sublime, what type of environment do you produce for yourself to compose your pieces? Do you have a favored playlist or preferred background ambience?
I listen to quite varied music and sometimes podcasts. It just depends…sometimes I work in silence too.
We are interested in artists as individuals, do you have a guiding principle or objective as a creative in our time? With the above in mind, what is something deep or profound about you that not many have yet learned?
I’ve always felt a sense of duty to explore and find new and worthwhile ideas. Over twenty years that’s shifted from fashion to inventing products and more recently into sculpture and textile work. Now I’m increasingly interested in contributing ideas that can serve a greater purpose, especially in response to climate change. I feel we’re venturing into a new chapter in which our actions, priorities, and habits must change and our creative efforts must be put to optimal use. Over recent months, I was affected by the terrible bushfires in Australia. I developed a large scale idea to assist affected communities, utilizing the debris from the 3000 houses that were destroyed in the fires. Beautiful monuments and archways would be built in each town to form a ‘sculpture trail’ to draw people and businesses back to those communities. At the same time, the works would honor the event and prevent a vast amount of waste from entering landfills.
Do you think accomplishments are enough to sustain ones creative mission? What are the dangers of resting self-confidence on passing accomplishments?
These great questions could make for a much bigger discussion. I hope you have enough room for my answers! Firstly I view a ‘creative mission’ as an overriding intention, and a career is the result of attempting to achieve that intention. There is, of course, the issue of reality – in the sense that opportunities to realise ideas need to occur. One of the ways this becomes most prevalent is by demonstrating past examples or ‘accomplishments’ as they often generate new opportunities. So I would say that the opportunities are key to sustaining one’s creative mission – but accomplishments are essential to generate those future opportunities!
What are the dangers of resting self-confidence on passing accomplishments?
If one rests on past accomplishment then there’s no forward movement and the danger is that nothing new occurs. As mentioned, accomplishments are just the tool to access new opportunities, they’re not for trying to boost self-confidence or inflate the ego. Personally I feel entirely separated and disconnected from each past accomplishment – I’m just interested in what lies ahead.
Is applause and praise fundamental to success?
It depends what success means to you. If success means to be content creating for personal pleasure then there’s no need for praise and applause. If success means to achieve something that is liked, useful or in demand, on a larger scale, then a positive response is pretty important. Public praise is excellent, but for the sole reason that it’s useful and helpful to give others confidence in your work. Essentially, I think we play out our creative missions through the often challenging road of a career. All these ‘success’ attributes are nothing more than the necessary tools needed to help gain the next opportunity to push ourselves a little further.
Can you share your greatest perseverance techniques to creatives who are approaching new and innovative styles?
I’ve noticed ideas are often just a first step toward something that may only become apparent through a lot of experimentation. If an idea comes to mind, it should be explored enough to decide whether it has merit and some commitment has to be given to just trying things out. I was recently working on my latest exploration, ‘Flux’, an idea that sees tulle compressed into perfect solid form, transitioning out into nothingness. That may sound rather straight-forward but it proved anything but..I first attempted this idea five years ago! I had terrible results back then but I kept returning to it year after year. I could see it in my mind but I had no idea how to make it work, and as far as I know, no one had done it before. Finally last year I achieved some promising results, and gradually discovered thirty three technical problems that had to be solved to accomplish it. This became evident in the thirty three samples that I made to find that out…and that’s before even starting to make any real pieces! So, to answer the question, I don’t have one particular perseverance technique, I just know if I really want to see an idea come to life, I’ll keep going until I figure out a way to do it.
All images with courtesy of Benjamin Shine