INTERVIEW | BEN SANDERS

Everything about Los Angeles-based artist Ben Sanders (b. 1989) is weird, vibrant and wildly expressive. His spontaneous, thick brush strokes, rainbow colored gradients, wacky, and slightly creepy characters and colorful still life-styled arrangements together create an universe of eternal, californian sunshine.

Ben Sanders grew up in Southern California, graduated with a bachlor degree from Art Center College of Design in 2013 and is now living in Los Angeles. His work mainly involves painting, drawing and sculpture but from time to time he also do illustrations for magazines and newspapers. In addition to his personal work Ben has also founded the collectives Those People that produces wacky photographs and Happy Hour Agency that puts on experiential cocktail parties. Ever since he was a kid Ben always liked art. “It’s really the only thing that I can stand doing every day” Ben explains and tells us about his father who inspired him to pursue a career doing what he loves. “My dad is a metalsmith and he ran his own business making decorative iron work, so I grew up seeing someone do what they loved for a living. This encouraged me to try and be an artist professionally.”

Ben’s choice of colors and patterns reminiscent of Sussman/Prejza’s identity for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics or something straight out of the Memphis movement. In his photographic arrangements he also refers back to the 1980′s and especially the otherworldly still lifes of fellow californian artist Barbara Kasten. However Ben manages to stay extremely fresh and somehow his work always contains close ties to the contemporary. As a part of his artistic practice Ben paints on flower pots turning them into weird and colorful characters with all sorts of plants growing out of them, obviously. He calls the project Pot Dealer and we have been completely in love with his terra cotta pot-head universe for quite a while now. Here you can indulge in a small selection of Ben Sanders’ wonderful work, get a couple of creative insights and hear the story behind the Pot Dealer-series.

Installation photos from FIVE (group show) | LVL3 Gallery, Chicago, IL | 2015.

Installation photos from FIVE (group show) | LVL3 Gallery, Chicago, IL | 2015.

Hi Ben! Can you tell us about your working process?
I often make work in bodies, focusing on a certain theme or motif in a group of works. Usually I make paintings on smooth gessoed wooden panels, but I have also started making sculptures out of metal which my dad helps me with. Sometimes I make a bunch of work for a show that is already planned, so in these cases I am working towards a deadline. Other times I just start exploring new things on my own and slowly I build up a body of work without having any deadlines.

Left: Smooz Yazz, Acrylic and collage on panel | Right: Condiments No.7, Acrylic, oil, spray enamel on panel.

Left: Smooz Yazz, Acrylic and collage on panel | Right: Condiments No.7, Acrylic, oil, spray enamel on panel.

What are your biggest source of inspiration/influence at the moment?
At the moment I am very inspired by ghanaian kente cloth, yugoslav native painting, Philip Glass, Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, chinet paper plates, Supermarket logos, tacos, Tim and Eric videos, and Teleflora plastic vases.

I usually have anywhere between 3 and 25 pots lying around in my studio, and as the weeks go on they all get some paint added to them.

Can you tell us about your Pot Dealer project?
I started painting on store-bought terra cotta pots as a way to use the extra paint in my studio when I mixed too much of a certain color. I usually have anywhere between 3 and 25 pots lying around in my studio, and as the weeks go on they all get some paint added to them. Eventually, after a few months, I have a big batch of pots that are all done. Then my studio mate, Josh Schaedel, and I make some wacky photos of them which I then post on my Instagram profile.

I only sell the pots on Instagram. I don’t have a shop or anything, so the first person to email me after I post a pot, gets it. I like to have an outlet where I can get my art into the hands of people for very little money, without any middle man. A big irony in the art scene is that artists/designers can seldom afford to buy artwork (unless you trade), and a lot of the people who buy the pots are artists/designers. People usually come to my studio to pick them up if they live in L.A., so it’s also a great way to meet other people, and for the buyer to come and see the context in which the pot is made, and the connections they have to my art as a whole.

Installation photos from Graves of Craving | Slow Culture Gallery, Los Angeles, CA | 2014.

Installation photos from Graves of Craving | Slow Culture Gallery, Los Angeles, CA | 2014.

What are your hopes, dreams and plans for the future?
I just want to be able to keep making art everyday. I’m in the process of making a documentary film, which I have never done before, and I’m excited to keep learning that medium as I slowly work my way through it, with a bunch of other talented and knowledgeable people. I’m also working on a painting show that will be entirely for blind people, and I hope to be able to show that in L.A. somewhere so that my blind friends can come to it. In addition to all the art stuff, just regular stuff too, like getting better at managing my time, making more time for others, having a family, getting better at cooking and going on road trips with my wife.

Condiments No. 5 | Acrylic, enamel and collage on panel.

Condiments No. 5 | Acrylic, enamel and collage on panel.

Do you have any piece of advice for fellow creatives?
My advice to other creatives is to just be nice and become friends with a lot of other artists who you can learn from. Also to make work that is honest and that draws from your life, even if it doesn’t fit in with what might be “cool” at the moment. And live your life so that art is not your entire world. Learn to cook, travel, join a club and read some books that aren’t about art. Then your art won’t be about art, it will be about LIFE!

And above all, DON’T STOP MAKING WORK!

Rikke Luna (f. 1988) og Matias Albæk-Falk (f. 1988) er stiftere af idoart.dk, og driver derudover formidlingsbureauet I DO ART Agency samt forlaget I DO ART Books. Rikke og Matias bor og arbejder i København.