In these new paintings Ben Deakin returns to a more playful compositional style, exploring landscape painting with a greater use of historical references. In many of these works there is an ambiguous sense of place, a monumental mountainscape towering over an oddly theatrical arena in which a variety of objects are scattered, seemingly neglected. The paintings reflect Deakin’s long term interest in the iconography of the Romantic landscape genre, and how mountains, forests and so called natural landscapes continue to be used by advertising and by western culture generally to define how we see ourselves, what we understand by nature and why we might call one place natural and another a wasteland.
The overarching theme for these paintings can be said to be an enquiry into how value is ascribed to certain places and types of environment. It will come as no surprise then to discover within the same canvas mountain scenery inspired by or borrowed from nineteenth century paintings of Yosemite National Park or the Rocky mountains, alongside the detritus and gravel piles of the Canadian gold-mines that the artist has seen at first hand. In amongst these are to be found objects and remnants from less obvious endeavours, a graveyard of white goods, or pieces of post-modern street furniture familiar to many a contemporary city dweller. In the 1800′s Yosemite itself would come to inspire the very idea of the National Park, ushering in a whole new frame of reference through which Western cultures could re-evaluate and commodify the natural world. The idea of a wasteland might seem at odds with such notions but in Deakin’s paintings these majestic scenes can be seen as exactly that, an elaborate theatrical backdrop, and the conceit that these are tangible spaces begins to break down. One is left with a sense that these are more like stages awaiting some undisclosed event, junk-yards for all our ideas about landscapes and the world we inhabit.
Ben Deakin studied Fine art at Kingston University and Central Saint Martins respectively gaining an MA in 2006.
Previous Exhibitions include: Nothing to be Done: Tannery Arts Space, London; Off the Clock, Mile End Pavillion, London & 92Y Gallery, New York.
He lives and works in London