Archive for July, 2012

Real and Imagined: The paintings of Benjamin Nelson

Thursday, July 5th, 2012


The day that Ben came to set up his show at the gallery with Carol Emerson and I it was hot and humid–one of those days where the air conditioner seems to be heaving to catch it’s breath as it tries to lift the heavy humidity out of the dense air.  Thankfully the AC got the upper hand and the lifting and holding of Ben’s large paintings, as we placed them, viewed them and finally hung them, was bearable.  And something else seemed to cool the room despite our labors.  The blues and greens and earthy grays and browns of his paintings brought us to a quiet and shaded spot protected from the heat.  We were beside waterfalls , abstract  foaming waves, or in the shade beside a stream in the woods–we happily found ourselves surrounded by water.

We joked that he was probably hot when he chose the paintings to bring to the show.  Ben described to us his attempt to work in his studio the day before–a studio armed with only a fan to fight the heat, which lost the battle.  Ben packed up his painting supplies and left his home in inner city Philadelphia for the park along Wissahickon Creek.  He walked in the creek and placed stones to create a place to sit where most of his body was submerged.  He then created a shelf before him to serve as a table so that he could paint.  He laughed, explaining that he was no longer hot.

His arrangement was, however, imperfect and his work managed to get wet, but this was no bother to him because Ben does not paint only what he sees–he paints what he experiences, imagines and what he synthesizes with other natural settings where he has been.  The places he paints don’t exist per se, but I would say they are real–because the viewer recognizes, through the abstraction, experiences and impressions of the creeks they have waded through or the beaches they have visited. When in nature, Ben explained, he observes, sketches or takes a photo. In his studio the synthesis of the real and imagined happens as he paints. 

Isn’t this, in a sense, what we all do?  We synthesis our imaginations , memories, experiences and knowledge when we are at our best.  The real is enhanced by imagination because it becomes adaptive to the present moment and to future possibilities as opposed  calcifying.

Ben describes his work as organic.  “The subjects of inspiration are starting points for something that will become much more intensified,  as I reinterpret how I see the world we live in,”  he explains. “I view nature as a macro reservoir of an infinite number of subjects that can be explored and rendered.  These organic forms can be altered and recreated, made abstract while still remaining recognizable to their original subject. ”  To find out about Ben’s First Friday July 6th show and see another of his paintings visit the Painted Desert Galley.