Ben Aitken ‘Sometimes I Feel Like Killing my Self(ies)

Ben Aitken Solo Show

Melbourne artist Ben Aitken’s solo exhibition ‘Sometimes I feel like killing my Self(ies) opens at Rubicon ARI on the 14th of January.

Rubicon ARI is located at Level 1, 309 Queensbury St, Melbourne VIC. The Show runs from 14th of January-31st of January.

Ben is an artist to keep on your radar- particularly for collectors looking to invest in a rising star of the Australian art world. If anyone is interested in a preview of the exhibition and would like the opportunity of meeting Ben, please call Alex in his mobile- 0414 300 054.

The show will be opened by art critic and writer Ashley Crawford.

Essay by Sam Leach

The work of Ben Aitken is both photographic and about as far from photography as image making can get. This contradiction is inherent, to some degree, in all representative painting made since photography began but it is taken to an extreme in Aitken’s work. The canvas is attacked with drips, splatters, smears and frantic brushwork. Yet the paint is applied to accurate drawing. This contradictory doubling of the work is restated at other levels. The images sit on flat monochrome canvases, the smooth, impersonal coloured surface at odds with the images that they host. Sometimes the image itself is literally doubled, as with a multiple exposure photograph. And since we are dealing with paintings that clearly represent particular individuals, it is strongly suggested that people themselves are doubled and contradictory.

The format of Aitken’s paintings – a shot of the torso, presented frontally and centred in the canvas is typical of the composition of amateur photography.However the continual production, reproduction and dissemination of images are changing society and individuals. It is still very early to say exactly what these changes are and what the long-term impact will be. Aitken’s paintings seem to suggest that the early evidence is conflicting. Any single image of a person says little beyond the particular way light has been reflected off them during the brief interval in which the photograph was made. The proliferation of photographs of a person forms a record of their actions. The collection of photographs reveals where a person was, whom they were with and sometimes what they were doing. The relentless self-examination and the sharing of this examination is a motivator for ethical behaviour and action. On the other hand, the endless publication of lives encourages a narcissism. Social interactions are reduced to an opportunity to collect appreciation, a tendency encouraged by the handy measuring of endorsements on social media.

Aitkens works are not photographs. As Barthes points out, photographs lacking marks or signs are rendered invisible “this is me” rather than “this is a picture of me” Aitkens paintings are certainly pictures of people. They draw on and invoke aspects of photography, but they are made from paint and sit in the deep tradition of painting. Time operates differently in a painting. A painting is an index of the labour of the painter. The passing of time may be represented in a painting, as with Aitken’s double exposure style paintings, or the painting can make a timeless image. In many of Aitken’s paintings no time passes. The figure is emblematic, taken outside of time and out of the network of interactions and connections, which construct identity, a point emphasised by the way the figures float on the canvas, a clear division between the smooth underpainting and the expressive gestural mark making.

In many of these paintings the flesh seems almost to be melting from the face. As though the individuals are dissolving under the glare of continued scrutiny by others or themselves. The faces are bruised, perhaps injured by their encounter with representation but still willing to fight for existence.

Sam Leach

Artists Statment

Sometimes I feel like killing my self(ies) is a series of paintings that investigates the concepts of personal identity.

The rise in popularity of the ‘selfie’ image – documenting and sharing our lives – pertains to pop culture’s fascination with celebrity-hood. An important topic and problem for debate is that these ‘selfie insights’ for our lives can depict a polar reality against our own internal idea of ourselves. The relationship between the identities created in the ‘selfie’ as a public image, and the identity that the individual sees them as, typically don’t correlate with each other.

Using this disconnection, Sometimes I feel like killing my self(ies) states: sometimes I am conflicted with my internal identity, and sometimes I am conflicted with my external identity. The inquiry as to the where the overlap of these two identities occurs is what the series seeks to investigate.

The series serves as an admittance to what has contributed to creating the perceptions of myself. The creation of the artwork seeks a catharsis, and a deeper understanding of myself to be eventually gained.
Ben Aitken