CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?
BW: I categorize my work as Geometric Spatial Abstraction. I use sets of nonorganic geometric elements to illustrate theoretical spatial and relationships between forms. The forms are often incomplete and the completion of the forms give potential movement and resolution that needs to be solved. The geometry itself is less important than the movement, relationships, and the group as a whole.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
BW: I want to advance ideas about spatial relationships that have a universal appeal. I am interested in the pure abstract relationships between forms and how they work aesthetically. However, I also want the viewer to be drawn into the work and be able to re-contextualize the relational objects to fit his or her own context. This is a goal I’ve been working on for many years, the results of which are difficult to quantify. I enjoy the abstract thought necessary to create the work and the possibility of communicating those abstract ideas. The day to day inspiration comes from my love of color and the meditative nature of slowly applying paint to the line onto canvas.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
BW: I start thinking about my next piece before my last is finished. As I paint, I think about how the spatial relationships, color, or line could be different. I have prepared canvases ready to go so that I can start thinking about the design for the next painting before I am finished with the current one. I complete multiple scale drawings before I decide what I am going to paint. I refine the drawings with small adjustments to the size, placement, and relationships until the spacing is correct. When a design doesn’t immediately come to mind I often revisit concepts I have explored in the past. There may have been a concept that never got fully developed into a series or a painting that I enjoyed, but didn’t fully understand why I liked it. It may have taken some time away from the work, or some time viewing it outside the context of creating to understand why the structure, scale, or color worked particularly well. Then I can rework some of those ideas into my current workflow and there may be a new series that develops.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
BW: The ideal interaction would be for the viewer to complete the incomplete forms in the painting. There is potential movement that suggests there is an endpoint for the forms. When the viewer starts to engage with how the forms are arranged and how they could be reoriented, there is a shared perspective that opens a common abstract thought to be shared between me and the viewer. It is not only a shared viewpoint that I hope to accomplish, but a shared thought process in getting to that viewpoint. That is where I find communion with the viewer.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
BW: I work on my artwork most days. I have a downtown studio in Philadelphia, and a small studio in my home. I work on larger works downtown, and meet clients and curators there. I go to as many art openings as I can, and enjoy going to artist talks. This year has put a pause on a lot of that activity, and I hope to get back to seeing work in person. I constantly view new work on Instagram ~ @benjaminfweaver ~ and enjoy developing relationships with artists worldwide, and being able to listen to artist’s talks there.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
BW: There is a general direction in my work that is hard to ignore. I plan in advance, but not in a rigid way. However, there is always something fun and engaging about creating on impulse. I find in my own process the use of that type of creativity loosens up a larger planned direction of work. There is a danger of an ever expanding rabbit hole when indulging pure impulsive creativity. It is easy to forget why you created the work in the first place or what thoughts and ideas you were developing. The difference between impulse and intuition is important. Intuition, based on experience, is crucial in the creative process. “I think this will work for my next piece,” even if you cannot articulate why.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
BW: Constantly refine your work. Ultimately every decision about your career is your own.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
BW: Style develops out of an understanding about what you like and don’t like about art. When you create a piece and finish it you can find three things you like about it, and three that you don’t. When you create the next piece and make those changes eventually a style develops. As the process goes on over a number of years the changes are smaller, and the style becomes more refined. Early on there might be a point where you step back and one of the changes is a big one. On more than one occasion over the years I thought “My audience isn’t understanding what I am trying to accomplish,” and because of this I have made some major changes. My first major body of work was in an abstracted figurative style. These paintings featured multiple figures, and I was interested in the interaction and relationships between them. However, the interactive dynamic was one of the last elements the viewer would pick up on. This understanding of how the viewer was really interpreting my work caused me to make a major change. With the next series, I started with the premise that relationships would be a major focus no matter what style
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
BW: Knowing how to spend your time and money can be difficult. It’s obvious that we all need to spend an enormous amount of time and hard work on our art. We also need to spend a lot of time promoting and interacting with the greater art world. In order to gain traction, it is easier if you are also a great photographer, publicist, writer, and designer. If we know we don’t have those natural talents, then we need to take time to develop them or hire someone to do the work for us. Being an artist is akin to having a small business, which is a multifaceted enterprise.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
BW: While I am painting time appears to change. It seems to slow down and speed up at the same time. The concentration that it takes to maintain a clean line focuses me into the present. There is a natural meditative process to putting the paint onto canvas that I love. There is always the next section and color to paint, and while I am painting that next section I am also in the present. As the painting moves along seemingly in a slow meditative manner, I discover that I am working on the finishing details. While I am painting, I am only thinking about what needs to be developed as I work on the piece. Eventually there is nothing left to change, and the piece is finished. It is easy to forget how you got there.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
BW: I follow other artists’ work who are more established and I look to see how much their work changes from year to year and series to series. There is so much that can be completed in a series of work, and some artists like to study the same concept for many years, changing format and color while other artists evolve concepts through each series of work. Of course, I am drawn to specific works from various artists. I would love to collect work from Paul Corio, Jan van der Ploeg, Gabriele Evertz, Samantha Bittman, Natalie Featherston, Kelly Ording, and Richard Roth.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
BW: Technology can be very helpful in terms of production, and helping get through technical issues. However, it can be a bit of a trap. There was a short period where I was developing layouts on Illustrator. I was getting through a lot of conceptual ideas because it was so easy to keep things square, change the scale & format and save every change. It was exciting to utilize such a powerful tool. However, it took away the thought process. Work that I was doing in my head was easy to supplant and process on the computer. When I went back to the paper and pencil, I was able to work through those problems internally and even started to think about the designs as I went about my daily life. Now I can weed out some of the designs before I even start to work it out on paper. It has become a more organic process.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
BW: It’s possible that artists could see the world differently but it’s not automatic. Someone might develop insight through creativity in their professional life, but there is no guarantee that those lessons translate into their greater life as a whole. Being introspective and thoughtful needs to be practiced, and it helps to be developed outside of the creative context. Personality traits that help me as an artist were developed long before I ever decided to become an artist. Some of these are practiced habits like carefully watching and listening, pushing myself to be flexible and hardworking, and the traits that create resilience.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
BW: I do enjoy traveling. My first choice is a trip to the beach, or mountains. I love my hometown city of Philadelphia, but I do have fond memories of San Francisco, and New Orleans. I would love to be able to travel to Stockholm, Reykjavik, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
BW: Flannery O’Connor is my favorite author.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
BW: I am continuing to refine two series I developed over the last year. I am continuing to work on my series Cubes Divided Equally into 3 and my second series over the last year, Inner and Outer Cubes. I have started a couple paintings with some parallel ideas dealing with internal structure which may be a new series. However, I want to expand the other two so that there is a complete body of work.
BW: I will also be part of a group show, Non-Objective Art: 2000-2020 at the Robert Berry Gallery opening June 1st.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
BW: An artist is able to put ideas into a consumable aesthetic form. It is a complex process that sometimes can be achieved by accident or with little thought. It usually requires years of technical training and internal/external insight to project those thoughts into the correct format that can be processed by your audience. It means constant reevaluation and adjustment to refine not only the technical aspects of creation but of the ideas and thought process behind the art. I am constantly evaluating those aspects daily. I have benefited greatly from being an artist, but most of the benefits are internal and hard to see. It has changed how I think and process information. Thinking about the work as a problem to be solved throughout the day has led to me thinking of problems as experiments in thought. Being an artist is a process and not a destination. There is always something new to work on, but you can only work on what is in front of you. It is a part of who I am. It cannot be the only part. If I didn’t have diversity in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to continue being an artist when times get tough. Life is complex, hard, and short. Being an artist has helped me to develop and grow into the person I am today.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
BW: I Got Standards, by Garage Class
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
BW: There are three main factors that drive the aesthetics of my work; structure, relationships, and color. The structure of the work is important to me on a design and academic level. What forms I choose to paint are key not only because of the shape itself, but how it can be altered to affect the relationships within the painting. I will use easily recognizable forms to suggest movement within the structure of the forms and painting. I use color as a way to emphasize or deemphasize different forms across the painting. With color I can flatten or accentuate the dimensional nature of the structure. I love the color shifts that happen due to contrasting colors, and color that can be pushed to be viewed as something that it is not, merely by the presence of a nearby color. I am interested in how subtle color shifts can affect the painting. I add multiple layers of thin semitransparent paint that emphasize details through the changing light of people’s homes.