"In this episode, Chris sits down with local artists Ben Darrah, Mark Laundry, and Mark Birksted at the Window Art Gallery to talk about their current exhibition Unity Road Four. This is their second exhibition as a group, along with their fourth member Ann Clarke. They get into sharing studio space, each of their respective works, how they chose what they would present in their second exhibition as a team, and more." podcast.cfrc.ca/2022/08/unity-road-four/
Unity Road Four
Here is a link to the group show, Unity Road Four, which I am in. It is currently up until August 30, 2022. https://www.ksoa.info/window-art-gallery.html
Canada 2 Four
Canada 2 Four is a great show at Hatch Gallery in Bloomfield.
I was very excited when David Hatch told me he was pairing me with Toronto artist, Kurt Swinghammer. I had never met Kurt, but I remember painting to his song, "Canada's Sweetheart - The Karen Magnussen Song" when I was putting a portfolio together for Grad School in the early 90's. There was a poignancy to the song that really got me. It was definitely nostalgia, but it also spoke about how the mediated experience of having her in our living rooms on our TV's informed who we are now. I didn't know it at the time, but it tapped right into what Dermot Wilson later explained to me was my interest in Mnemonic devices.
Kurt's paintings are unabashedly sweet. He has transformed cottage country imagery into geometric-ish patterns. They are colourful and calming. He has successfully zeroed in on iconic imagery and removed distractions to focus on an essential interplay between shape and colour, while still pulling happy associations of cottage vacations from the viewer.
In my work, I am playing with many of the same themes, except my subject matter isn't as initially clear. I include a bunch of qualifying statements. I make the viewer work, look through the layers, and come to some sort of incomplete conclusion. I love the cottage scenes, and hope they illicit great associations, but I also feel there is some ambiguity. The work, "Helpless", feels like a Rosetta Stone for the language of these pieces.
I think the overlap and differences between Kurt's and my work are really interesting. They complement each other in this bright exhibition.
Please visit the exhibition. It is up until July 10. - Ben
David Hatch at work in his gallery with my painting, "Wild Memory" in the background. June 11, 2022
Summer Thoughts (Bleak Outlook)
It's the middle of the summer. Everything is green, muggy, and it looks like there is going to be a bumper crop of zucchinis, beans, apples, and grapes in my yard.
Over the last two days I installed a floor in one of the rooms in our house. It was hard and I'm not as happy with how the job turned out as I had hoped. My body is not happy with me and I'm wishing I had had the means to hire someone who knew what they are doing. Don't get me wrong, I am pretty handy. In fact, even though I did not enjoy the process, I find working with different materials very inspiring. I liked the way the off cuts fell in a random, yet totally satisfying pile. I've included a picture above of a woodpile from last summer's fence building task - this job went much better, probably because I have built a bunch of fences and know what I'm doing. Again, I am attracted to the drawing created by the random pile. This is part of my art making process - I notice lines, shapes, images - that keep on popping up and intruding into my thoughts.
I recently sent out a gallery submission that focused on my landscape construct paintings - similar to the ones I showed last autumn at Hatch Gallery. These works mean a lot to me and I think looking at how we engage and represent our environment is important. Of course, my brain is contrary, so as soon as I sent off the submission, I found myself focusing on another stream of work. The format is the same, but the imagery is drawn from media reporting on conflicts - usually between authoritarian forces and struggling people. I started this stream back in 2010 in response to the Arab Spring and G7 protests in Toronto. The image above, Peripherally, was a painting I included in the group show, Unity Road Four, at the Kingston School of Art's Window Gallery (with Mark Birksted, Ann Clarke, and Mark Laundry). The other stencils and DoFo image are part of that process.
This summer, I am shocked by how people are getting on with their lives - going to cottages, renovating houses, making art for galleries (all things I am doing) - when it seems we are in the middle of something else. We are still in a pandemic, facing startling examples of climate change, and having horrific revelations about how our country (and western economies) were built on indigenous genocide - while governments are at best trying to maintain the status quo, or more frequently, are actively making everything worse with poor, polarizing policy.
For the last ten years, all of my exhibitions have started with the private working title of "Bleak Outlook". Over the course of constructing the works for each exhibition, the focus has shifted to another element in the works - something more palatable - and the exhibition title has changed. Maybe that will change soon?
I have been trying to figure out how to marry the three streams of my work (the first two mentioned above, overlap quite easily). The third stream is my sculpture works. Completely abstract works inspired by random(ish) drawing of materials. I have an idea that has been rattling around my brain cavity and poking out in some of my studies. An image that keeps on popping up is the cover art for The Clash's album, Give 'Em Enough Rope - apparently based on a photograph by Adrian Atwater. I have also been intrigued by STEFDIES photo performance work. My thinking is a series that have objects - bodies, lumber, Tim Horton's cups - piled in different contexts. Stay tuned to see how it comes together.
Have a great summer - be kind - Ben - July 26, 2021
Link to Ptuj Blog
I started this blog, Ben Darrah's Art Experience to document my participation in Art Stays in Ptuj, Slovenia in 2012. It was a great experience, made doubly so because I was able to take my son, Owen, as a studio assistant and music maker. I also got to re-connect with my old buddy, Marek Schovanek. Here is the link to this archived blog - click here.
New Works on Paper
I made these works on paper for a potential commission. The client was interested in imagery that was along the same lines as the paintings in my Landmarks exhibition at Hatch Gallery, but they wanted works on paper.
It was an interesting process working within the restrictions of paper. My paper works are usually structured quite differently and tend to be very distinct from the canvas works. This is partly due to the fragility of paper and how I work the surface of the canvas works by scraping, rubbing, and rolling layered images. It is also partly because I tend to approach works on paper with a slightly different tone. Doing these current works made me think more about this difference in approach. It may have been a response to the more intimate size of the paper, or the more graphic possibilities with paper - or - it may be an unconscious bias that I am still trying to figure out.
It was fun painting these - I had the elements ready at hand and was able to paint in a kind of flurry, like a dance, and explore some new combinations of moves.
These new works on paper are all on heavy rag paper - Arches and Somerset - and are all 24 x 30 inches. The photos are quick studio shots with my cell phone.
Well, that was a fun opening! Thank you to everyone who came out, especially those of you who made the trek from out of town. It was great to see you, hear the positive comments, and be buoyed by the support!
Also, thank you to David Hatch for taking on my art, and for the excellent presentation of my work by giving them space to breathe and shine in your fantastic gallery space. You are creating an oasis for accessing art by some of Canada's most interesting professional artists (if I do say so myself).
The show is up until the end of October - if you missed the opening and feel like an autumn drive into beautiful Prince Edward County.
Welcome to my Website. It is, and always will be, a work in progress. On most of the pages I will feature images of my work. In this Blog section I will write about things that are on my mind, such as news about exhibitions and events I think people should know about - including my exhibitions.
I am happy to announce that I am participating in two exhibitions this September - one solo and one group.
Landmarks is a solo show at Hatch Gallery (8 Stanley St., Bloomfield, Ontario). The opening reception will be on September 12, 2020 and the show will run until the end of October, 2020. Details on the opening reception will be announced closer to the date as the gallery navigates the changing Covid19 situation.
Unity Road Studio Group is a group show at the Window Art Gallery (647a Princess @ Victoria, Kingston, Ontario). This exhibition has been organized by Mark Laundry and features the works of the four artists who share the Unity Road Studios in Glenburnie, Ontario. The artists are: Mark Laundry, Ann Clarke, Mark Birksted, and Ben Darrah. The four of us share a space and respond to each other's work, while doing distinctly different work in painting and sculpture. The exhibition will be installed August 31, and will be up for the month of September. Stay-tuned for opening reception information.
Thank you for reading this far. I look forward to hearing from you.
Cheers! - Ben
August 2, 2020
Ben Darrah is an artist based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.