The Cob Gallery is proud to announce an installation of a new painting series by Ben Ashton. The works in part represent an ongoing creative partnership with his wife, Fiona, who features as the main subject matter alongside the artist’s own image and that of the couples first-born son, whose birth marked a turning point in both Ashton’s creative and personal trajectories.
Ashton is known for verisimilitude in figurative and self-portraiture; his works pay homage to the classical and traditional craft of painting, and are often incorporated into and displayed as ambitious installations.
This series sees Ashton imbuing his imagery with a new fluidity – this fluidity can be seen as a product of his increasingly gestural use of source photography. Poses or attitudes are struck by the figures in this series as they move through the composition, dragging trails of light with them. The process is more evocative of a dance than simply holding a pose; it is through this constant motion that the images express a vitality and dynamism, prized by the artist as departure from the precise painting execution associated with past works.
In the character and gestural dynamism of these subjects, Ashton explores a metaphor of Dionysian and Apollonian duality. Apollo represents individualism, control and the order of the universe and Dionysus represents emotion, chaos and collective unity. Through the dichotomy of these two powerful forces comes artistic creation, and indeed procreation. The artist believes this best describes the collaborative relationship he shares with his wife. An overarching primordial atmosphere is heightened by the character presence of masks – the artist believes that while the masks allowed for a certain anonymity, they simultaneously encouraged an instinctual freedom of expression, and a capacity to explore new and more honest characterisations.