Sunday, June 19, 2011
Born on the 12th of June 1983 in the city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Ben Heine (Benjamin Heine) is a Belgian artist widely known by his series "Pencil vs Camera."
Ben holds degree in journalism (Brussels) and a Masters' final assignment on the "limits of freedom of speech in political cartoons" (2007). He frequented drawing, painting, multimedia and history of art in Hastings, England and studied Technologies of Information and Communication in Utrecht (Netherlands). During two years, Ben studied Slavic languages, history and cultures (Polish and Russian).
He started as painter and political cartoonist, but interrupted his political art in 2009 and started focusing on his own art.
In the year of 2010, Ben starts developing the creative idea of mixing drawing and photography, originating his most famous series "Pencil vs Camera" where the artist plays with illusion and surrealism and blends imagination with reality.
In the same year he initiates a new creative process that he names "Digital Circlism", a mix between Pointillism and Pop Art where the artist combines circles of various sizes and colours, each of a single colour, over a black background, usually to reproduce portraits of celebrities and cultural icons.
More recently he starting working on the new project "Flesh and Acrylic", painting abstract shapes with acrylic on a life model.
Ben also has an extensive experience in photography, essential to the creation of his works.
The Art Inquirer contacted Ben Heine for an interview where he talks about his art, projects for the near future and coming exhibitions.
TAI - From what age do you remember of drawing being one of your favourite activities
BH - I think I was 11 year old or so. At that age, I knew that drawing would change my existence and that it would become the primary way to express my ideas and my conception of life.
TAI - What other mediums have you used or keep using ?
BH - To give just a few, I’ve tried many different mediums like pencils, ballpoint pens, pastels, acrylic, oil, watercolor, ecoline and ink, on paper or on canvas. I’ve also made some sculptures and I’m more into photography and digital art now.
TAI - Tell us what those mediums offer to you that makes you want to work with them.
BH - Each medium offers something particular. It’s also nice to mix them together to get unexpected results. I used to work only with simple tools, easily available. I’m now trying more and more to prepare my projects in advance and to make more complex combinations with the instruments I use (See my most recent work “Flesh and Acrylic”, for instance).
TAI - Before your “Pencil Vs Camera” series that got you so well known by the public, what other forms of creativity have you tried ?
BH - I’ve done in the past other series that have had less impact than “Pencil Vs Camera”, like “Wild Animals Downtown”, “Chess Art”, “Digital Caricatures” and others. I never know how the public will react to my new works so I try not thinking too much about it. But when I see that people really don’t like something I’m doing, I just stop and start something else because I want to make art for people, not for me. I’m trying to make it understandable by everybody.
TAI - How did you get to the kind of art that you are doing now ? What triggered it ?
BH - Pencil Vs Camera is a mishmash of my two favorite disciplines: drawing and photography, so this series came quite naturally. Before starting this project, I saw some artists merging a photo in a photo or a drawing in a drawing, but I had never seen a drawing in a photo. So I thought there was a perfect opportunity for me to bring something new and creative.
TAI - Which are your favourite themes and subjects ?
BH - In Pencil Vs Camera, the main themes and values I want to share are love, friendship and happiness. I like to focus on architecture, portraits, nature and animals (a bit of everything). This series mixes imagination and reality in a simple way with simple tools. The only boundary is my own perception of the world, my own imagination. I like playing with illusions, visual tricks and surrealism. Finally, my hand is always visible. I think it emphasizes the connection between the viewer and the action happening on the little piece of paper.
TAI - When you include people in your works, do you try to do it without them noticing, do you tell them or give them a hint of the situation, or it's not relevant ?
BH - When they are famous, there is usually no problem at all, because these people are used to see their personal image exploited, as long as it remains positive. When they are random people I meet in the street, it’s more delicate, I have to make sure we don’t recognize them too much. If we can identify their face, I have to ask them the permission to have their image potentially published in the entire world.
TAI - How do people react when they realize that you're drawing them or are asked to serve as models ?
BH - They are often surprised and intrigued but still very positive and willing to collaborate.
TAI - What's their reaction after seing the final result ?
BH - Most of the time, they are very happy with it.
TAI - When you decide to start one of your artworks, how do you plan your day ?
BH - I often find ideas before going out and starting a new project. I just decide a bit in advance where I’ll go and I do the sketch on the place where I’ll take the final picture. If needed, I do the drawing home, at my desk, more comfortably, and I come back later to the scenery where I intend to take the photo.
TAI - Do you have plans to make this kind of creative work with other mediums ?
BH - Good question. I might be doing “Pencil Vs Camera XXL”, which means that I might use some huge paper on wooden panel (several meters long) and ask several people to carry it in front of a nice landscape, then make a giant drawing on it and take a final picture…
TAI - What would you like to try next ?
BH - I just started a new project called “Flesh and Acrylic”, in which I paint abstract shapes with acrylic on a life model. I think this series has a big potential too, but it’s only the beginning.
Ben Heine's "Pencil vs Camera + Digital Circlism" will be exhibited in the following places:
The Avenue (organized by The Art Movement)
7-9 St James Street, London SW1A 1EE
July to September 2011
206 rue Stévin, 1000 Brussels
July the 5th to 4th of September 2011
Art London (Chelsea)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea, SW3
6 - 10 October 2011
AAF Spring (London)
Battersea Evolution, London SW11 4NJ
20 - 23 October 2011
London Art Fair
Business Design Center, 52 Upper Street London N1
18 - 22 January 2012
You can visits Ben Heine's website and his blog, as well as keep up with his latest artistic projects on Facebook.