WORKAHOLIC // BEN ASHTON

As a child I was always obsessed with the idea of having a portrait, much like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, of myself that felt more like myself than my own flesh. Hyper-realism, or soul catching, as I like to refer to it, has always blown me away. The idea that you can mimic the third dimension with a flat surface and take it a step farther and create an identity with it is something that one almost seems to be cursed with. It’s like the writer who will not leave their library until they get every word down on paper, or the dancer who spends nights alone in the studio dancing themselves clean.

Ben Ashton seems to be of the like-minded who works with the inner compulsion of creating life through his art form. In addition to creating obvious works of great talent, he has been a part of some amazing projects such as the 2014 BP Portrait Award, his joint art direction company with wife Fiona Garden called The FASHTONS, art work for the band AlunaGeorge, and many others.

Ben allowed us to see inside of his studio and showed us some of his latest paintings:

What do you do?
I am a London-based visual artist specializing in hyper-realist portraiture and ambitious immersive installation works. My work aims to combine precision in execution with humor and character, balancing emotive response with a strong contextual foundation. I also collaborate with my wife on various creative projects. We art direct films and photo shoots for various creatives. The people we work with often find themselves in my paintings as a result of working closely with us; in this way both my personal work and our collaborations are intertwined together in a beautifully symbiotic way. 

 How did you get to where you are now?
I taught myself how to paint at college in Newcastle; I learned everything from scriptures written in the 1600’s, and from my own trial and error. I felt that painting was something I could build on throughout my entire life, that the world was far too ephemeral and it was only by spending lots of time over something that I could give it soul and substance. I went through seven years of art education with each tutor telling me that I shouldn’t paint – this of course only made me more determined to do it. I funded my last two years of education by selling my work in London art galleries. I met my photographer wife when I put on my first solo show and our work has been inextricably linked ever since.

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Was this always your dream job?
I thought by following a career in art I could do whatever I wanted, and this has largely been the case. I made the decision to follow this path when I left school. I thought I could either be a musician, an actor or an artist, but realized that by being an artist I could include both music and acting in my practice. Not really a dream job, so to speak, it really just seemed to be the most logical way to go. 

How much of the week is work, how much is play?
It’s all work but work includes playing. I find it very difficult to relax if I am not working, as my sense of worth and inner calm is entirely connected to what I produce. I constantly worry about not realizing all my ambitions in life, and so only work, and occasionally alcohol, can calm my nerves.

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How do you find your inspiration and do you find it easy to stay organized?
I am influenced by history, which is obviously extremely vast; I often take inspiration from where an idea began. All of the various devices and means of entertainment that are around today, eg. 3D films, originated from ideas conceived over a century ago, and I am interested in taking that truly exciting time as a jumping off point. I find that looking back to the gestation of an idea gives you fresh vigor when dealing with potentially mundane tasks.  I tend to apply this way of thinking to many things within the art world – when I see a show at the White Cube gallery, for example, I automatically link it back to artwork made centuries ago. When you see these connections that span many centuries it brings new relevance to the postmodern phrase, ‘everything has been done before’. I am very tunnel visioned and, as a result, not good at multi-tasking. Working in this way means that I am very organized on singular projects but I can certainly find juggling all the different things I do extremely challenging.

How important is your work, and do you feel it defines you?
I feel that my work does define me. As I paint everything/everyone around me it is hard to know what is art and what is life – the distinction between the two isn’t really necessary. I suppose my figurative work is an extremely direct description of my immediate environment. I have captured my whole adult life in paint and I imagine a huge part of my legacy will be a concise visual diary. 

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What has been the most exciting thing you have done with your work, and what is a dream situation you’d like to find yourself in?
I have built a 4 metre cubed icosidodecohedron a few years ago. It was designed to map a human in stereo from every angle. It was exhibited in a park in Bloomsbury, Central London. I have been dreaming lately of doing an exhibition in LA – in recent years I have felt London quite stifling and I want to experience a fresh creative environment.

How do you define your personal style, work and clothing, etc.
Black

Do you listen to music during your work day?
That depends what my wife is listening to as we share a very intimate work environment. If it was up to me I would listen to history and science documentaries all day, only interrupted with the occasional blast of hardcore metal.

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What’s something someone may not know about you?
I am confused generally by most of humanity and have many concerns with bringing our first child into this world.

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Anything else you would like to say or for us to know?
No

Lastly! Basic Info:
benashtonart.com
email – benruddockashton@hotmail.co.uk

All photos by Fiona Garden

Special thanks to Natalie Margot at Manimal PR

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