Ben Rowe at the Mission Gallery
Second star to the right and straight on til morning
Mission Gallery presents an exhibition by Ben Rowe, a Bristol based artist who works from his studio at Spike Island. Pulling from a huge wealth of sources of popular culture and films from the 1980′s, the central theme for this show is escapism, as Rowe chooses to reconstruct infamous scenes and props of portals or doorways to another time and place. Primarily using reclaimed MDF, Rowe recreates these life size replicas of props in the associated films for site specific and new work in the gallery space.
Rowe creates intricately detailed objects which show a number of different textures and surfaces making the paper, metal and electrical components of the object tactile and believable. There is a recurring theme of travelling, whether it be to fictional worlds that never arrived, or far off worlds of fantasy. The flux capacitor and hover board from ‘Back to the Future’, and the cosmic key from the lesser known ‘Masters of the Universe’ are prime examples of this.
As David Trigg notes in his catalogue essay, ‘Ben Rowe’s Excellent Adventures’, craftsmanship is extremely important to Rowe; “His decision to craft his works from that versatile wood substitute so beloved of DIY enthusiasts also harks back to childhood. Airfix models and craft kits used to consume much of his time and a do-it-yourself, hobbyist mentality continues to pervade his work. That’s not to say there is anything amateurish about these sculptures; on the contrary, Rowe’s self-taught technique is impeccable, displaying an uncommon level of skill… (Rowe) laments the loss of artisan skills and deplores the lack of technical instruction he received at art school. Like the Airfix models of his youth, Rowe’s works are often made from hundreds of smaller pieces, each one of which is laboriously hand-crafted in his Bristol studio. His is a drawn-out process in which an individual work can take anything between four and six months to complete.”
His new, site specific work for Mission Gallery ‘Behind Wonka’s Door’ is a wonderful, eccentric world, though it is one that also harbours a sinister side. In fact, many of the films from which Rowe draws his inspiration envisage dystopic futures or troubled worlds.
Rowe not only expresses something of his own desire to abscond from reality but also alludes to art’s capacity to translate us away from humdrum normality into fantastical realms where anything is possible.
Ben Rowe lives and works in Bristol, UK
Images Gallery Index
1. Batteries Not Included
Exhibition dates: from 04 June – 24 July 2011
SA1 1TY 01792 652016