Artist Ben Willis investigates patterns through his use of layering, texture, and his technicolor palette. The end results are geometric abstractions that create a feast for the eyes. His latest solo exhibition, 'Candy Man' is the artists latest attempt to "consistently evolve his practice by
re-inventing and expanding his visual language."
What’s your preferred medium to express yourself and you work? How did you come into working that way?
All of the panels I work on are handmade. I start with a variety of primers from traditional gesso, spray paint, acrylic paint, resin and collage. From there, it’s more of a classic way of drawing or working general to specific. A loose pattern is sketched on top of the primer followed by resin often mixed with a combination of flakes and pearls (glitter and dry pigments). I build up layers but feel like there is a lot more intuition and freedom involved allowing the composition to evolve on its own. It’s rare for me not to use a variety of media on any piece and I have always worked in layers.
Where did you grow up and do you think that’s affected, at all, your vision as an artist? Does your current environment affect your work?
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and I am sure in some ways it has affected my vision as an artist. Once I started to get serious about my practice it became obvious that I need to move on and explore other cities. Living in Arizona, specifically Phoenix where its sunny and warm about 95% of the time has certainly brightened and enhanced the colors I am using. Materials like resin and paint also dry extremely fast here which has really forced me to work a lot faster.
What was your dream growing up as a child?
I was really into sports as a kid and wanted to play in the NBA.
What has become most important to you or your work at this moment in your life?
I want to create a visual experience that is both fun and satisfying yet leaves you hungry for more. With all the fucked-up things going on in our world at this moment I believe there is some healing power behind this work that translates through my use of color, pattern, abstraction and materials. It’s important for me to make people think.
Is there any specific moment(s) or memory in your life that pushed you definitively towards the arts or to pursue your creative ambitions?
As far back as I can remember, my mother has always made quilts as well as crocheted various blankets and garments for the entire family. My father is very much a handy man and for all intents and purposes a wood worker. I hadn’t considered it much before, but would certainly be steering you in the wrong direction if I said my parents and up bringing haven’t played a role in my creativity. I think what really tipped the scale was my first college Math class. For a while there I wasn’t sure if I could make it as an artist but realized quickly that I wasn’t going to be something I hated.
Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration(s) and how do you think they/it have influenced your work?
Meeting other artists and creators. Especially when I really form a connection with them or their work. It kind of gives me hope in a way. I have a tendency to be somewhat of a shut in and these connections really give me all the feels and validation for what I am doing.
What does your work mean to you? If anything at all?
My work has always been what I consider to be portraiture. It was quite obvious when I was only painting people but I would say my current work portraying a specific group of people or experience. It’s what keeps me going and I don’t ever see a point where I stop.
What is your definition of ‘art’, even if it’s total bullshit?
Art is power.