Ben Skinner: WOOLGATHERING.
23 May 2019
Benjamin has spent almost 2 weeks constructing (after many months of planning and envisioning) the most extraordinary environment within the gallery. It feels like you descend under the floorboards of the gallery itself and escape into a different era. As you cower beneath the lowered ceiling, waiting for your eyes to adjust to the dimmed light you begin to decipher objects and people against the walls drenched in ox-blood hues. Every timber slat, as it creaks and snaps under even the lightest tread has been carefully measured, cut and placed. The fold and fall of every fabric deliberate and the light sunk in gloom like an Old Master painting. As to what will fill, happen and unfold within this space we cannot say, for we do not know exactly. The space itself invites every visitor to become, authentically, someone or something else within its grip but without driving this situation. The intention is to create something that grows of its own direction, not always expected and often a far cry from the starting point. With the tension between seduction and dissuasion pulled taut, where opulence is born from dearth, and the refined and the depraved mingle anonymously a fertile environment exists for creation, emergence and for something to come into being of its own volition.
The rich layering of Ben’s installation is continued into the work itself, with the photographs in Ben’s distinctive style printed onto silk, almost a century old, and hand stitched into frames made by the artist. This all harks back to a bygone era and brings to the exhibition Ben’s dexterity as a craftsman besieged by today’s disposable, corner-cutting culture.
The silk onto which Ben has printed his photographs was used as electrical insulation in the 1920’s. With access to only a single roll of this textile a limited number of photographs can be printed onto the silk. Each photograph is a limited edition of just 13 and will be printed on demand until the silk has been used up. Thereafter the photographs will be printed onto archival paper.
The collection includes photographs laid into timber and glass display cases – like cabinets of curiosity. In these cabinets the delicate translucency of the images on silk is beautifully showcased – with light passing directly through the image. These objects become “photographic sculptures” and are sold as a complete unit. The cases are to be admired for the extraordinary construction using Japanese joinery techniques and manufactured in durable, but lightweight, beech wood.