Interview with Collage Artist, Ben Giles

How did you get started doing what you do?
I’ve always been cutting things out and getting into trouble for it. Or sticking and attaching things together to make something completely new. It snowballed into me calling myself an artist.

How would you describe your creative style?
Aesthetically I focus a lot on colour, pattern and ready-made materials, I spend considerable amounts of time making sure each piece follows a subconscious set of rules that I’m still figuring out myself. Almost all of my materials are sourced from something else or found- something that already exists is very interesting to me as it’s already had a life, it’s already told a story and due to the fact that many of my materials are obtained at the end of their life span. I feel as though in using them before being destroyed or thrown away, I’m giving these objects another purpose. Lots of my work is composed of lots of different little components pieced together to create a larger whole, rather than drawing or painting from scratch I’m a composer making sure each instrument is in the right place at the right time. Each flower is placed specifically next to the other thousand flowers. Each tree is debated, each butterfly is working together with another butterfly across the paper. I’d like for people to see a piece of work, whether a collage or sculpture, and be able to tell its mine.

Interview with Collage Artist, Ben Giles on Jung Katz

What’s your inspiration?
Inspiration finds me largely from nature, form and fantasy. From firsthand experiences or researched places on the internet or in books and magazines. There’s always the need to express thoughts, ideas and fears about the world into something tangible. Films, television, music and books tend to offer more inspiration in ideas, structures and processes, where as art offers me expectations of limitations and possibilities, knowing that nearly anything can be created and find a home. I try to avoid looking at other artists’ work too often, especially similar mediums to mine. I do think it’s good to go to shows and see things in real life though- there is something to be lost by limiting everything to virtual images. But sometimes I will see a piece of work and just think, fuck, that’s good and immediately want to go and make something, whether similar or completely different. Working with other artists at Uni in a studio space was amazing too.

What does your typical day look like?
I’m an extremely messy and unorganised person at times so structure isn’t always easy. I can never sit and do nothing, I’m almost always occupied when not at work.

Interview with Collage Artist, Ben Giles on Jung Katz

How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
Normally a piece can take between 10 minutes and a few days, sometimes a few months and occasionally a year.

How do you keep motivated?
Creating is a reaction to the knowledge that one day I will know longer be here. I think it’s a way of reacting to basic existential thoughts and finding a way to evade a certain sense of mortality. Each piece of work is something that will live after me and hopefully continue to inspire any kind of reaction from people. When I first started I would have been content and flattered knowing that my work had changed someones life, inspired them, affected them, made them think, made them laugh or even just make them smile- to have something make any impact upon another human being or the world. It would make me extremely happy to know that my work will still have that effect on people when I no longer can, even down to the seemingly most insignificant thing.

How have others reacted to your work?
I’ve seen people with smiles on their faces. I’ve seen people go right up to it and inspect each individual piece. I’ve also seen people eat my work.

Interview with Collage Artist, Ben Giles on Jung Katz

What do you want others to take away from your work?
I hope people feel a sense of escapism, or excitement, ultimately I want people to feel something. To create an environment or world for people to step into. I want people to connect to an image or an idea and form their own meaning. Or relate to an idea I’ve proposed and build on it. I don’t like telling people what to see.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Don’t get older.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Don’t be a dick.

Interview with Collage Artist, Ben Giles on Jung Katz

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Listen to advice and experiment as much as possible. But ultimately pursue what you believe is the most important thing to you artistically, regardless of what anyone says.

What are your thoughts on art school?
University was a great place to have the time, space and facilities to develop my artwork and meet similarly minded people. But I don’t think it’s necessary to be a great artist or designer.

Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I’m still hoping to have a solo exhibition at some point, I have so much work and lots of projects I want to share and lots of ideas of how to show it. I’d love to see my work in lots of other places too. Being financially stable from making work would be lovely too!

Interview with Collage Artist, Ben Giles on Jung Katz

What’s your dream project?
I would love to explore more into film and into shooting my own, it’s more of a dream than a direction I see myself pursuing, but I just wouldn’t know where to start. I feel I would have loved to have studied it and learnt more about the practical elements involved. I think to capture moving imagery and to tell a story the way I see it in my head would be incredibly satisfying. I’m also going to an art residency in Norway in May this year, which is a dream come true, it’s going to be completely alien and beautiful and it’s something I’ve worked towards for quite some time now. I can’t wait to open a dialogue with the environment around me and feel truly immersed and inspired.

What art supplies do you use?
Random pairs of scissors I “borrow,” sticky fixers, duct tape, glue, cable ties. Sounds a bit creepy.

What’s your process like?
For collages there’s normally lots of shifting piles and towers of paper that’s organised then re-organised and moved around until it circles me. Certain things are put into categories, some into thought out pieces of work or potential pieces of work, until I can be bothered or have a moment of motivation and jump in and attack it and cut it up. Ideas can take minutes or weeks to realise. Using real physical materials means a lot of cutting out or organization, so that is often the first experience I have with each image or idea. Often I’ll see an image and know exactly what I want to do with it, it’s just a matter of finding the right components to accompany it. Often for larger works or sculptures I’ll either find a large amount of materials and experiment with it, or I’ll have an idea planned out for a while and think it through a little, understand what I want to do, then jump straight in and if it evolves along the way, it evolves.
Whatever I make, it’s never in silence, there’s always a television show, or a film, or 5 films on in the background or at the very least music playing, this, I suppose, in turn influences my practice as much as it accompanies it.

Interview with Collage Artist, Ben Giles on Jung Katz

How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
As an artist I feel very insular in my creative patterns and processes. I don’t often express my opinion on the art world as quite frankly I don’t feel like I have them. I’m insular in many ways because, firstly “art” in a stricter sense isn’t primarily an interest of mine. Being a creator or maker is, I need to create, it’s a compulsion. Secondly, I don’t always wish to be inspired or influenced in other art, whether it detracts me from an idea or unmotivates me, or unfairly informs my process. It’s too easy to see similar pieces of work, ideas already pursued, or places you wish to explore criticised. I’d much rather create than consume art, or talk about art ,or talk about talking about art.

I do think that it can be very easy to pay for your way into shows and exhibitions, I was recently invited to join an exhibition, where once I showed interest was asked to pay £500 for a square meter of brick wall for a very short amount of time. Obviously this isn’t always the case and not everything is free and easy and given to you on a plate. But it’s this accessibility and limitation that can often set apart artists trying to share work to the general public within an art space other than that provided by the internet. It’s simply ridiculous to me, and something I’ve noticed a lot cropping up over the last few years, it allows for some artists to pay their way into situations and opportunities which may have in the past been offered to genuine talent or emerging artists. Sure, you have to spend money at some point and sacrifice other things for your art, but it’s this alongside other things that are becoming the norm. But there’s always a shift in the ways things become better or worse.

Something that many creatives feel frustration at, is the way “exposure” is now a currency rather than tangible payment for hard work. Sure exposure is great- sign me up, but producing work that I should be paid for, for free isn’t. Other working professionals won’t work for you simply because it might get the word around that you do it or are good at it. They expect to be paid for work. It’s infuriating too, because often asking to be paid for work will lead to that exposure being taken by someone else willing to sell themselves short which only then spreads the idea that it’s okay to work for free, adding fuel to the problem.

This may be fair or unfair to say, but there’s many artists, everybody can be an artist and everyone can have their work seen. Often talent can be lost among imitations and cheap rip-offs and the noise of the numerous versions, accessibility is great but over saturation isn’t. I may simply be occupying a role within the noise of modern accessibility.

Follow Ben Giles on Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr.


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