Ben Edmunds: Painterly Processes & Lost Horizons

I caught up with Ben Edmunds during his latest exhibition to find out what he's been up to since Wimbledon and to see the direction is work is taking now.

We both started in the same year at Wimbledon, I studied a year of sculpture before transferring and you, painting. I’ll admit that your group of painters had more talent than ours. You’re now at The Royal College of Art, how’s it treating you? 

Ben Edmunds John Bingham.jpg
Rear Install.jpg

Well firstly I don’t know if that’s true! There were many good things and many terrible things going on, on either side of the site... But yes, I’ve just started my final year at the RCA and am slowly beginning to think about options for the degree show next June.

Longing and monitors.jpg

It was great to see you and your work at your ‘Lost Horizons’ show at Noble Studios in London last month. Can you tell us a little more about the work that you showed here and your connection to Noble Studios?

Glad you came by! Since so much that fuelled those paintings and drawings was coming from holiday posters and tourism adverts, for Lost Horizons I had this idea to turn the space into a sort of fictional travel agency. Due to the internet, they’re pretty much redundant now but I’m really into the idea of going to this sad, desolate office to buy into some sort of paradisiacal escape.

Noble People got in touch a while ago but it was only really this summer that the project took off. It was exciting because they were super relaxed about the space, and with its exposed services and industrial feel it seemed like the perfect glum setting for a travel agency. I was able to install a huge wallpaper mural and have a black wall for the neon light. 

Holiday Magic and A longing for lost horizons.jpg

Your paintings have great depth and like many, become more intriguing when text is added. Can you tell us more about the relationship between text and what appear to be more abstract layers behind?

I think text naturally works its way into the compositions due to my interests in graphic design, it’s also a usefully direct pointer to some of the themes I want to conjure with a painting. I’ve started to organise elements in the paintings like posters. I like the way text moves the eye in comparison to the way images do, or gestures, splashes, or stripes. I also like playing with the readability of the text - I have a continuing fascination with posters that don’t appear to sell/promote anything. It makes sense that the compositions are layered because my processes are so distinct, and I imagine the space like layers in Photoshop.

However, painterly processes are equally important, and space for uncertainty and chance is opened up. By using dyes and bleach the paintings are difficult to control and invent their own forms. This contrasts the arranging in Photoshop and subsequent use of stencils and tape, which is much more controlled. I enjoy this tension between loose and tight. 

Holiday Magic detail.png

Again in your drawings, which I’m a huge fan of, layers are visible. How do your drawings inform your larger paintings and installations?

The drawings happen in a similar way, with dyes and bleach, stencils, images. I’ll often use them to test ideas before committing to making a painting because they are quicker and cheaper to make. They tend to be a bit more image focused because I’m more comfortable drawing pictures than painting them, but their potential for painterly mishap is less. I was really glad to be able to show them in Lost Horizons since their an important - but too often ignored - part of my practice.

Follow Ben @bentedmunds