Benjamin Britton was born in Palo Alto, CA, in 1976, and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and his MFA from UCLA in 2008. His work has been shown primarily in commercial galleries and alternative spaces in New York and Los Angeles. His work is included in the West Collection, and in 2010 he was awarded a fellowship to attend the J.B. Blunk Residency by the Lucid Art Foundation. He teaches drawing and painting at the Lamar Dodd School of Art and lives and works in Athens, GA.
As a painter, I work with material, abstraction, and illusion. My work often appears at first to function like a dense and colorful abstract painting, but contains representations of nameable things and illusionistic spaces. Almost always, there is motion and more than one kind of painting language present. My studio process involves revealing and veiling what can be seen in a painting. Many of the marks or gestures applied to the surface are amended in some way; elaborated upon, bedazzled, or made illusionistic. They shift in status from one position to another. It is a fluid, variegated surface, full of disruption, difficult to pin down, often dissonant and awkward. All those amended marks, when apprehended together, create their own harmony, sounding an optimistic note in the middle of all the fluctuation.
I play a kind of brinksmanship with chaos within the conventions of pictorial art. Often I'm creating a convoluted but navigable space where a viewer can enter, negotiate, and make discoveries. I'm interested in challenging spaces, maybe even chaotic ones, but their overall effect tends toward the romantic, celebratory, and almost always contains something of the natural world. The way the work is viewed plays on the shifting priorities of how we attend to sensorial experience in our lives; one thing may assert itself, a smell for example, only to be overcome by a sound, which is then backgrounded by color or motion. When I paint, I want this constant shifting of attention to form an overall condition within the space of the picture.
I build each piece on a specific scenario, and gather imagery around it. The imagery in the paintings comes from landscapes, photographs, textiles, clothing, literature, maps, decorative objects, abstracted forms of human and animal figures, among other things. I get a lot of my imagery from my experiences of travelling and nature. Whenever possible, I want to be generous with specific information about an ambiguous situation. Sometimes the imagery has a direct signfication, as in the buoy paintings. The “buoys” are either identifiable as such, or use the symmetrical form as a kind of armiture that is adorned with imagery and paint. They have become a useful symbol of marker/perceiver, and one that I have left open to interpretation. They mark the edge of a course-of-action, and are characterized by their construction and purpose. They also record and report data, make noise, and light up. Another frequent signifier is fabric from clothing, which stands as a personal identifier of a time and place. I also use representations of textile patterns to describe the condition of covering and uncovering, mirroring the application of paint itself. In addition, they carry cultural identification and association with a domestic setting in the midst of what is often an extraordinary or wilderness space. There is also some imagery that carries indirect signification, but which overall becomes identified with a cultural perspective or a kind of lifestyle.
I am interested in conflating personal realities and mythologies with cultural and political ones. In particular, I’m interested in a personal and often romantic relationship with nature, and how the virtues and blind corners of that relationship can be projected onto the cultural and political. We try to commune in our own ways with nature, and nature goes on communing with itself. It's a view that's neither entirely romantic, nor cynical, but both. The best we can do is navigate very complex scenarios, navigating back-and-forth towards one marker or another, with no true star to follow but desire, hope, and adaptation. Name the buoys anything; brainy and flakey, romantic and cynical, intuitive and conceptual, pleasure and ennui, or name them people you know that you want to be closer to or farther from. Their multiplicity hopefully creates resonant, if temporary, associations that mark our course throughout the picture. In the work, I'm talking about an experience of the senses, selecting an aspect of a personal relationship to nature, and privileging a certain kind of moment of adventure or wonder that can stand as an allegory for navigating life.