Benjamin West’s work takes full advantage of the joyful, provocative, and visually exciting potential of collage and photography using nature as his main inspiration.
His practice examines our ever-changing relationship with nature, and investigates the consequences of human activity upon our surroundings.
West’s professional background in graphic design and photography shines through in his careful selection of image combinations. What West leaves behind from these practices, however, is the artificial. Despite his work’s slick and blemish-free appearance, West does not use computers to edit his compositions in any way. In this sense, West’s work harks back to the great Masters of the medium working in the pre-digital age such as Hoch and Maar.
The hands-on nature of West’s work (collecting natural source materials such as flowers, hand-cutting images from physical printed sources) demonstrates the influence of a key art historical movement: the Arts and Crafts. Just as with West’s work, the Arts and Craft movement of the 19th Century laid emphasis on ‘artist as craftsman’, hands-on creation, and the rejection of machine manufacture.
The influence, too, of Dada is evident in West’s work. West’s compositions tackle contemporary socio-political issues, such as genetic modification, pollution, urbanisation, and the industrialisation of the natural landscape. Dada shared this observational discourse, critiquing through fantastical satire the issues of post-war 20th Century Europe.
“The process of collage lends itself historically well to the act of protest and dissent in an increasingly industrialised and uncertain world”.
Much of West’s work focuses on the divide between the natural and the mechanical. Mechanically doctored flowers in which isolated pieces of machinery cleave through images of the natural world, and photographs with structures and industrial forms dissect landscapes.
Benjamin was born in Alton and moved to London to study his BA in Graphic & Media Design at the London College of Communication. Since his studies he has exhibited his collage work and photography across the country and worked on numerous projects that deal with environmental issues such as pollution and the changing face of Britain.
Credit: Rise Art