Culture / Art Republik

Sentiments of the Sublime: Ben Young at REDSEA Gallery

New Zealand-based artist Ben Young recreates the ocean in glass

Oct 04, 2017 | By LUXUO

Ben Young, ‘At Ease’, 2016.

Drawing inspiration from the ocean, New Zealand-based artist Ben Young will present a series of glass sculptures in his solo exhibition at REDSEA Gallery in Singapore. Titled ‘Sentiments of the Sublime’, the exhibition will run between 6 October and 5 November.

Having spent most of his life in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, with its picturesque beaches and crystalline waters, Young explains that it was his deep affinity with the ocean that inspired him to begin making art in the first place. A keen surfer who worked in the boat-building industry for fifteen years before deciding to become a full-time artist, Young considers the ocean as not merely a passing fancy, but in fact an important part of his life and upbringing.

“A lot of my work is about portraying the beauty and peacefulness of the ocean,” explains Young. “There are glimpses of its fiercer side in some of my pieces, but generally I try to portray the sheer size and scale of the ocean, contrasting its vastness against humanity.”

Ben Young, ‘Set Sail’.

Glass, then, with its fragility, seems at first an odd choice of medium for a subject so immense. However, Young points out that the ocean, in all its unbridled beauty, is nevertheless not invulnerable.  “I wanted to reinforce the importance of its conservation as it is so fragile,” explains the artist.

Ironically, in depicting the raw, wild beauty of the ocean, Young’s method is painstakingly delicate; each of his works are drawn, cut and crafted by hand using clear sheet float glass, then laminated layer by layer. To achieve the exquisite amount of detail in his pieces, he constructs models, draws templates, makes custom jigs and then cuts the layers with a glazier’s hand-tool. After that, he mounts the glass onto concrete. According to the artist, this is an ongoing challenge as concrete tends to expand and contract, which can cause the glass to crack.

Given all these potential technical difficulties, Young explains that the toughest part is not actually in crafting the piece itself, but rather the thought that goes into it. “The biggest challenge when creating my work is definitely the concept-to-reality phase,” he says. “There’s a lot of initial technical drawings and planning that goes into each piece before I even start to think about cutting.”

Aesthetically, Young’s sculptures are stunningly intricate: each carefully crafted ripple lends texture to the stark glass planes, the heavy slopes of the concrete creating an organic contrast to the sharp, crystalline turquoise. Visually captivating and powerfully evocative, Young’s pieces offer insight into the power of the land and seascape.

Ben Young, ‘Contemplation’, 2016.

More than being just decorative, however, his works embody an almost childlike wonder. In one of his pieces, ‘At Ease’, he depicts what appears to be a cross-section of a body of water, surrounded by mountains. The stillness of the water, juxtaposed against the steep, dramatic slopes of the surrounding land, brings about a sense of majesty in its contrast.

Similarly, the series is a juxtaposition in itself, contrasting the sheer vastness of the ocean with the infinitesimal nature of human perspective. “The concept for the exhibition is about the sublime experience of contemplating the comparative vastness of nature, and how it’s an experience both grounding and awe-inspiring,” says Young. “It is this experience, this power of the landscape — and of the sea in particular — that dwarves mankind. It’s the nostalgia of being in and at one with nature that I try to capture in this exhibition.”

Ben Young, ‘Ocean Range (Day)’.

While his works are deeply personal, reflecting his awe and nostalgia for the ocean, they are also  powerfully relatable, tackling a subject that is universally familiar with a mix of vivid sentiment and timeless appeal.

‘Sentiments of the Sublime’ will run at REDSEA Gallery, one of Singapore’s leading contemporary art galleries, and is the artist’s first ever solo exhibition. Works presented will feature the artist’s signature works, as well as a number of new, circular, larger-scale works that will incorporate more lighting.

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