Benjamin Cook (b.1989) is an artist originally from Northern Kentucky and currently living in Champaign, Illinois. Ben did his BFA from the University of Louisville in 2012 and presently is an MFA candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Ben’s recent body of work is very amusing, bold, and colorful. These abstract work in acrylic are painted with broad brushstrokes involving swirls and arcs that are reminiscent of mandalas, chakras, and rainbows. There’s movement in his work coupled with slight humor. Ben’s work has been exhibited in many states in the US and Canada including lots of features in print and online magazines and blogs. Here’s our Q&A with him:
Please tell us about yourself:
My name is Benjamin Cook. I grew up in Northern Kentucky, just outside of Cincinnati. I received my BFA in 2012 from the University of Louisville and am currently residing in Champaign, IL as an MFA candidate.
I’m not sure there was ever a time when I didn’t think of myself as an artist. Aside from the few years in early adolescence that I was sure my future was as a professional baseball or football player, I have been saying that’s “what I wanted to be when I grow up” since I was five. I think I began to take it a bit more seriously starting in high school and since then I have progressively taking steps to figure out what it means to be an artist.
What is your artist statement?
My works explore tensions between organic and digitally structured systems through paint. I draw from the land, social media, skateboarding, graffiti, blogs, and my own personal history. My works are regurgitations of metabolised content that strive to find a balance within the fractured social networks I find myself navigating on a daily basis. Through developing a visual language that reside neither solely in the organic or digital realm, my paintings aim to evade the binary and point to the duplicity of the image/object.
I think of my current works as images as much as they are objects. I am interested in the relationships between physical art objects and digital representations of them. I the differences are fractional at most, and tend to think of the works as collapsed binary rooted in a space of augmented reality. The paintings images deal with structured systems as a way of visually navigating algorithms of everyday life. As for the humor in the work, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone audibly laugh, but the sense of fun and play seems to be quite evident.
“Paintings for the Internet” was the precursor to my current work. It functioned as much as research and experimentation as it did artwork. I was interested in how I could move images around the internet through social media and blogs. I made the paintings to be photographed and run through different sites, platforms, and methods all while keeping a sort of mental tally of the analytics that came from it. I wasn’t so much interested in altering my works to make them more desirable on a digital platform as I was interested in learning how things were connected. Mandalas are sometimes talked about when discussing my work but they were never of inspiration to the making of them.
How do you get into your creative mode?
Some days you have it and some days you just don’t. The days where I find it difficult to get going are best used to catch up on the less creative side of being an artist. Answering emails, organizing documentation, researching, exc. It isn’t always the most fun, but it has to be done. If I am really in a rut and just can’t find the motivation to make anything worth while I force myself to make anyways. Usually that work is really terrible and never makes it out of the studio, but it usually will eventually lead to something interesting or get me back in the right mindset.
I’ve had my work published by numerous blogs and magazines, most recently, Fresh Paint Mag and Maake Mag. I’ve also been showing work in gallery spaces around the US and Canada, I currently have work up at Gallerie COA in Montreal. I also just started working with a gallery in Chicago, Zg Gallery, and am working with them to put together a solo show in the near future.
Something to say to our readers or aspiring artists:
I think the biggest thing for an aspiring artist to learn is what exactly they want out of being an “Artist.” That word can have a lot of meanings and each one requires a different strategy to get you to the place you want to be.