Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Not too late for a trick or treat - Ben Ashton Exhibition at Simon Oldfield

I first happened upon Ben Ashton's work at the Slade MA/MFA Show, 2008 and for over a year now I have been looking for the opportunity to see some more of his work (I'm not quite sure how I managed to miss The Brain Unravelled in September 2009 where he exhibited alongside Anthony Gormley and others). His first major solo show is now on, at the new Simon Oldfield contemporary art space - in an old monumental masons showroom and just a stones throw from The Whitechapel Gallery and Aldgate East tube.

All Images: Photography Pamela McMenamin.
Copyright Ben Ashton 2009
Courtesy Simon Oldfield Contemporary Art

I was a bit worried that Ben would ditch the structures and optical devices which were intrinsic to the experience of his Slade Show and concentrate on the paintings. I am so glad to report that the structures and devices are still here. The installation at the Simon Oldfield gallery delivers a coherent installation of the structures, devices and paintings creating the gestalt environment needed for Ben's work - to see that the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts.

Moving around the exhibition the viewer flips from being passive to active to almost voyeuristic. It is a play with the senses and in particular our perception and the creation of depth which most of us take for granted everyday. The optical devices trick our brain but we share and enjoy with the artist the common joke - the human condition and the peculiarities of today's society with this age old concern and the question of what is reality.

Underlying all this tomfoolery are rich historical references with a contemporary twist. A further nod to the past is on the practical part of the viewer. In order to truly appreciate Ben's work the viewer has to experience it in person. Therefore, just as in the past, people had to travel to see great works of art so too must we to see Ben Ashton.

Ben manages to conflate his love of painting and its histories with the contemporary. Ben is one the few contemporary painters out there who continue to push the boundaries of painting while keeping the practice alive and relevant today.

The exhibition has been extended until at least 15 November 2009. 
Simon Oldfield, Contemporary Art, 17 Osborn Street, E1 6TD.
Monday and Tuesday from midday - 6pm. Wednesday - Sunday 10am-6pm.

Big Head - 2009 Kaleidoscope (mixed media - external view) - 80cmx 37.5 x 37.5 cm

Big Head - 2009 Kaleidoscope (mixed media - internal view)

Hung Up - 2009 Stereoscopic Octagon (mixed media - external view)

Hung Up - 2009 Stereoscopic Octagon, (mixed media - internal view)

Glorianna - 2009 Stereoscopic structure (mixed media - internal view)

Cornellius and Big Head - 2009, oil on board - 41 x 31cm, installation view

All Images: Photography Pamela McMenamin
Copyright Ben Ashton 2009
Courtesy Simon Oldfield Contemporary Art

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