Ben Foster - Studio Visit, by Emma Smallwood
Ben Foster's studio is both unorthodox and, at the same time, perfectly suited to his medium and preferred method of working. Standing room only, completely surrounded by half used cans of Molotow and public broadcast radio penetrating the night.
Ben’s studio is located in the leafy backyard of his worker’s cottage home, in the heart of Collingwood. The 86 tram can be heard rattling down Smith Street and the mozzies starting to circle. The studio lights up the backyard and soon comes the unmistakable rushing sound of spray painting, interspersed with the grind of the mitre saw as birch wood canvases are cut and Tasmanian oak frames assembled.
Ben’s style of high impact colour and imagery, true to its street art genesis, has evolved in recent times to reveal a distinctive, unique colour palette. His current works reference and amplify the unanticipated and forgotten colours in the microecosystems of the Australian bush. Ben’s work is clearly influenced by the colours of his own backyard and studio surrounds. Beautiful shades of green ranging from forest to acid, layered with pops of coral, apricot and beautiful blue greys are present in the reclaimed timbers, hand made furniture and flowerless plants.
Ben’s methods reference the intricate, interconnected and layered nature of his inspiration. Ben’s dozens of hand drawn lichen inspired images are then hand cut into the several different layers of stencils which are required for each work. Tonight Ben is spraying the colour for his last stencil on a large work; the works slowly take shape over weeks in the studio. Once this part of the work is complete Ben will use graffiti ink to draw the intricate layers of detail over the stenciled works.
The works represent a merging of influences; Ben’s love of the aesthetic of the Australian bush of his childhood in country NSW and the imagery his current life in the center of Melbourne inspires; with the city providing inspiration to not only Ben but to many of the worlds leading urban artists.
Photos by Emma Smallwood and Elise Dalley.