The tactile qualities of wood and paper are at the heart of Ben Goodman’s art. Using a minimal palette, he offers up the aesthetic essence of the world around him, distilling views down to expertly rendered, deceptively simple portrayals.
“I’ve always had many interests but the main theme running through my life has always been art,” he says. “Even when I was very young I drew cartoons and took a sketchbook round with me. At school I gained higher grades in Art than any other subject so this inevitably pushed me towards an art degree. My parents were (and still are) a huge influence on me and have always encouraged my interest in art. They regularly took me to exhibitions, plays and festivals, which I am eternally grateful for.”
Etching, engraving and woodcuts soon earned their place as the central skills of his craft, as he fell in love with the processes in their entirety.
“Quite simply, I love everything about the act of creating a print – the slow pace, the materials, the possibilities (and limitations), and the attention to detail,” he says, then adds: “But also the printing community, the history of it and the relative commercial potential of printmaking.”
Ben enjoys engraving particularly, “because what I engrave into the block is exactly what prints, which is something I could never achieve with etching.”
The “slow and steady process” of engraving is particularly appealing to Ben, who describes himself as “a very impatient artist. In engraving, he says, “there is no opportunity for fast mark-making – anything that makes me slow down is beneficial. Unlike etching where one can burnish away mistakes, engraving is extremely unforgiving and there is no way of repairing an error. This makes me think more carefully before I cut into the wood, which is always advantageous.”
Among Ben’s earlier work is a powerful series of pieces capturing scenes of thunderstorms. “During the stormy weather we experienced in 2014, I made quite a few trips between Bristol and London on the coach,” he says. “I was always mesmerised by the extreme cloud formations and the contrast that was created between the black rain clouds and the setting sun on the horizon. This series of prints are my attempt at capturing this chiaroscuro landscape.”
Despite this, Ben says it’s unusual for him to have a theme running through his work. “Each piece has been inspired by something completely different. Sometimes it is a particular view or an idea but other times I might be inspired out of the desire to try a new graver (engraving tool) and to test its potential,” he comments.
“Currently my work is taking a much more conceptual route and I’m working on a series of engravings that cover my ideas of life and death and also how these ideas relate to printmaking.”
I often ask artists what they love about being an artist, and Ben’s response to this question is refreshing. “What I love about being an artist is that I am able to be an artist,” he says. “It’s an extremely privileged position that allows me to make work that I love and am proud of. I like the idea that I’m creating things that will outlive me.”
You can find more of Ben’s work on his website, www.bengoodman.co.uk. Currently he has “at least one engraving touring round the country” with The Society of Wood Engravers annual exhibition. “I’m a regular exhibitor at the RWA’s annual open exhibition, and occasionally at the RA Summer Exhibition in London.” Ben send out newsletters throughout the year with details of upcoming exhibitions, events and new work – sign up at www.bengoodman.co.uk/contact.html
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