Aesthetica Art Prize Interview: Ben Jack Nash

The Aesthetica Art Prize is a celebration of excellence in art from across the world and offers artists the opportunity to showcase their work to wider audiences and further their involvement in the international art world. Previous finalists include Julia Vogl, who was shortlisted for New Sensations – Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4′s Prize – and has exhibited at Zabludowicz Collection; Marcus Jansen, a leading modern expressionist who joined a legacy of artists by featuring in Absolut Vodka’s artistic campaigns, and Bernat Millet, also shortlisted for National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. The 100 longlisted artists are published in the Aesthetica Art Prize Anthology and the shortlisted artists will appear in an exhibition at York St Mary’s currently running until 28 April. We speak to longlisted artist, Ben Jack Nash, about his sculptural work. Often using the universally familiar as a point of reference, the artist’s work examines the soul of major catastrophes or social issues of our times.

A: You work with sculpture, how do you find this medium is able to express your artistic vision?
BJN: A lot of it is to do with aura. I once made part of a sculpture using chicken eggs. I asked a local poultry farmer to give me the biggest and pointiest eggs she could get. She looked to the sky and clicked her fingers, ‘”I know just the chicken.” she said. Materials tell a story, they reveal a history. During their lifetime they will fade, become something else to someone or disintegrate. But many will outlive you and the next generation. Materials absorb the ghosts of their past. A simple but well loved and crafted box passed on to someone else will radiate the smells and aura of previous owners but also the maker.

Technology will always change how art is produced. Projectors help to paint pictures, inkjets and laserjets develop photos, CAD designed plastic sculptures magic out of 3D printers and are placed on plinths. Incredible images we have never seen before are produced. But the aura is lost.

A: Do you work with any other artistic forms?
BJN: My artwork often deals with the affects of the great and the minutiae. For example, it may take a revolution rainfalls of corpses – lasting years – to change the leader of a state. The phenomena I take on are diverse, unpredictable and the form mimics this. Choosing the wrong medium to convey an idea is like choosing a spoon to thinly slice a loaf of bread.

A: What is the starting point of a sculpture, for you personally?
BJN: The end point of the last work but I also like to start in the middle.

The Sculpted Colour series is in many ways a homage to form whilst also subverting it. I use a single technique to create paintings, sculpture and photography. Remind me again…and again combines all three forms into one work and brings them back round full circle.

A: How does it feel to be part of the Aesthetica Art Prize?
BJN: The quality of the work selected for the prize is ridiculously high. This is reflected in the success of the magazine publication. I only started exhibiting two years ago so to be included in this selection is deeply rewarding given the thousands of entries received. Reaching this level is only possible thanks to the wonderful support and belief from those close to me.

At an early stage in an artist’s career, it can be difficult to garner objective feedback about your work which is why selection for competitions based solely on merit is important. This is especially true as a sculptor or installation artist where photographing your work for competition can be treacherous.

A: Which artists have inspired you?
BJN: The trouble and beauty with art is that its influence is sublime. It’s not going to sprinkle its magic over you in a vacuum. It can be the vehicle for lifting the cover of past memories like the rattling lid of an over-boiling pot. Or art will wait patiently on the passive memory shelf like a forgotten book that may one day be brought back to life.

What is clear as an artist is that your inspiration threshold from other artists is much higher but then there’s the element of envy, the “peer sneer”. It is harder to take the much needed step back and see their work as you would like others to see yours. You have to try and think outside of your own claustrophobic vision, not read too much into the subject or curse how it could be better. Other people are usually very good at telling me which artists I have been inspired by.

A: What do you have planned for the future?
BJN: The future is like a political manifesto. Without fiction it wouldn’t exist. I have an ambitious idea for a large scale installation in a grand space which I am determined to see through to completion. The sculpture it is based on is nearing completion then it will be ice pick and oxygen tanks to scale the funding mountain and get it made and out there.

For more information about Ben Jack Nash visit his website

Aesthetica Art Prize Anthology features Ben’s work and is currently available here
Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition 8 March – 28 April, York St Mary’s.