Ben Grant

Artist Statement


In my paintings, combinations of shapes, patterns, and textures serve as a kind of syntax; rigidly composed blocks filled with patterns of geometrically precise stripes form shifting relationships as their colors and spatial orientations coexist with and resist one another. Occasional blocks allow room for the more organic seeming vocabulary of staining or marbling, their randomness at deliberate odds with their more severe neighbors.  Still others seek a middle ground by foregrounding a less hard edged, handcrafted technique.  The colored bands in my paintings are applied using a myriad of different techniques including rolling, brushing, spraying, sanding, drawing, and tearing. Each application and its resultant visual effect carries echoes of every day material objects such as fabrics, custom cars, game boards, and carnival rides. By manipulating the panels’ surface qualities I am not only forming what I intend to be a stimulating visual experience, but am also managing a range of vernacular references that add up to a legible, but semantically complex whole.  In recent pieces, curvilinear forms add to the range of possible syntactical combinations, allowing for an even more complex and expressive investigation of the medium’s potential to engage the viewer.  These later works more fully acknowledge the possibility of representation without surrendering a commitment to abstraction as a fertile environment for the demonstration of painting’s unique appeal.

My work is rooted in my conviction that painting’s expressive capacity continues to invite exploration, affording the artist a rich context both for the invention of new tropes and for the considered extension/development of formal and theoretical possibilities that may have been prematurely consigned to the dead letter office of abstraction’s mid-century past.  While I feel that the identification of specific antecedents too narrowly constrains the range of possible readings, and while neither nostalgia nor postmodern self-referentiality plays any part in my process, the whole modernist enterprise and its aftermath, in the visual arts as elsewhere, cannot be supposed to have vanished from our collective cultural awareness. This legacy inevitably informs, however unconsciously, both my artistic practices and my critical engagement with contemporary art.   My paintings represent in part an effort to avoid a calculated rejection of elements that may feel familiar as they find their way into a process that is, I maintain, an inquiry into the new.