Ben Cowan - Art That Makes You Think
Liquid Capitalism: Pyramid Selling #1
My Self-Isolation Miseducation
A Jar: The Ultimate Marmite Subject
Like many of us, I have a compulsion to express myself through art. We might look around and wonder, why is the world like it is? If culture is our mirror, what reflections can we see and what does this tell us?
For instance, from my series of spoofs on Penguin literature examining what has changed since the classic texts were written, there are the Wonderland-inspired designs showing Alice fascinated by the Looking Glass. Bevelled glass that has become a full-length iPhone: the social mirror for our youngest generations; a place where they spend more time scrolling, gaming and comparing themselves than they do in the real world.
I produce art that makes you think. Digitally produced art for a digital age. Often rendered in vintage hues, while hurling us into an uncertain future. Thoughts about our lives: consuming and consumption, and forms of capitalism, rent on eviscerating the planet.
Ideas for composition themes often come from looking back to look forwards. Text appears a lot in my work, often as subversions of iconic formats such as Penguin Classic book covers, Andy Warhol’s, soup cans, or Starbuck’s consumer products that play an important part in our history as well as contemporary culture.
Like many artists, when I look around, I want to explore both beauty and truth. - A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down…; In my case the sweetener is comedy. It is easy for me to see nature as beautiful, while modern life is rubbish. I use familiar packaging to get your attention, wrapped up inside though, are hopefully insights we can share into the shadow text of modern life. My comic lens wants to make you laugh, otherwise the truth I seek, is sometimes awful.
My medium is irony. Which means that in my digital art – on canvas or limited edition giclee prints - I seek to subvert or contrast one idea with another. I might present something iconographic, that you recognise, and then undermine your understanding by challenging you to find a different, more hidden meaning. I also produce mixed media compositions such as giant books on wrap around canvases; with a spine, overpainted and decoupaged with 125 year old bible parchment.
My lighting sculptures also challenge your notion of what something is for. Giving a second life to industrial objects that have out-lived their usefulness. For instance, a euphonium where the mouthpiece is lit up; a tenpin bowling skittle that is a motivational lamp because it has gotten back up thousands of times; or a reading light which is made from books that you cannot read. Again, irony is my medium.