Storytelling is central to Crawford’s practice, from the moment in reality to which the painting is connected to the poetic and expressive titles that mark their completion. There is an autobiographical resonance to many of his paintings, which often have the feel of a dream or memory that has flickered into his mind, colours heightened and details slightly obscured. Figures huddle, faces cast to the ground and expressions hidden by shadow. Framed by foliage and pictured at a distance, Crawford’s paintings often give the sense of stumbling into a quiet or secretive moment from the past.
Fascinated by the way that imagery can transcend time and cultures in the evocation of place and emotion, Crawford finds inspiration in photography and uses resources such as Flickr: The Commons, a global database of public photography, saving images that resonate. Entering a single search term can yield thousands of results, taking the artist on a visual journey spanning several decades, cultures and landscapes. Using the process of digital collage, he then connects elements from seemingly disparate images alongside his own photographs and imaginings to create new stories and sketch captivating compositions.
By combining found images and personal memories, imagined characters and known landscapes, Crawford’s paintings appear both familiar in their portrayal of human relationships and interaction with the land and surreal in the ambiguity of time and place. We are reminded that whilst people come and go, the landscape remains constant, holding the experiences and secrets of its occupants past and present.
Crawford begins with a moment of painterly expression, applying a ground layer of acrylic paint with loose brush strokes and free movements to cover the bare canvas. From here, he works at a slower pace, enjoying the way in which the composition, palette and subsequent layers are guided and influenced by the spontaneous marks and colours below. This process, of allowing the abstract to shape the figurative, reflect the artist’s relationship with nature and acknowledgment of the extent to which his own experiences of life are shaped by the landscape around him.
Ben Crawford is an Irish-born artist who studied painting at Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork, Ireland, and graduated with a first class honours degree in 2007. He emigrated to Queensland, Australia, in 2011 and lives with his wife and two daughters on a farm in the Gold Coast hinterland. He paints from his studio, a self-converted shipping container, in Currumbin Valley, a semi-rural area of subtropical rainforest and banana plantations bisected by a creek running from mountain to sea. Immersed in a landscape so exotic and foreign to his upbringing, Crawford explores questions of identity, place and belonging within his work, combining curious narratives with picturesque landscapes to create timeless scenes of intrigue.