Artist: Ben Edmunds
Exhibition title: Second Mountain
Venue: Tatjana Pieters, Ghent, Belgium
Date: February 4 – March 19, 2023
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Tatjana Pieters
We are honoured to invite you for the third solo exhibition of Ben Edmunds (UK, 1994) at the gallery. Best known for his large scale paintings that combine tropes of modernist abstraction with the stylised accents of adventure sports, the practice of Ben Edmunds moves between painting, branding, photography, useful objects and wearable equipment. Through the lens of Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field, in which painting sought to become a transcendental experience, his work can be seen as an updated modernism, a search for the meaning in a contemporary context of fashions and trends, self-help literature and outdoors brands.
Growing up in rural England, Edmunds was surrounded by a culture of extreme sports. He draws on this personal history of sailing, windsurfing and cycling to explore the transcendental parallel between abstract painting and adventure sports. To the artist, these sports offer an escape, an urge to go beyond the known boundaries of geography and the body. questioning the assumed anti-utilitarianism of abstract painting, the artist proposes to examine the function of a painting as equipment.
‘Second Mountain’ marks a shift in emphasis from the individual brand towards community, co-operation and collaboration. The title of the exhibition was borrowed by the artist from the self-help book by David Brooks. Second Mountain describes a post-aspirational pursuit, suggesting that from the summit of the self-oriented first peak, the view is not as good as you hoped. The second mountain therefore, could be about finding a deeper meaning and connection to others, and our environment.
Alongside a new series of sculptural paintings, Edmunds presents ‘Something to hold onto’, his garment collaboration with Oliver Haus, photographed in the mountains of The Hope Valley (UK) by Frankie Markot. His brief to Oliver Haus was to create something from extreme sports references, drawing on Edmunds’s history in sailing and Haus’s passion for kiteboarding. The garments are built from re-purposed kites and bespoke carbon fibre corsets. The images depict the story of a couple moving through their lives and relationship, partly helped as well as hindered by their garments. Finding paths, helping each other, looking elsewhere and simply moving through life.
Immersing the exhibition is a soundtrack created by ambient music producer Joe Clark. Titled ‘Re-entry’, the 45-minute piece takes inspiration from Edmunds’ and Clark’s shared interest in 1970s science-fiction movies, specifically Logan’s Run in which the protagonists escape the pleasure dome to be confronted with a new reality, the adventure of the natural world and the great outdoors. The experience of this transcendence, and their struggle to adapt is for Edmunds analogous with the process of painting, and of life more generally, and it is a theme evoked by the paintings when seen in combination with the soundtrack.
Within the exhibition, Ben Edmunds also makes space for Search Party, where he has invited a large network of artist friends to create a work on the theme of searching. Displayed as a mountain range in the back space of the gallery, the group show demonstrates the individual endeavours of a wide range of artists, but also their commonality in that everybody is searching for something. This ambitious and multi-faceted show develops Edmunds’ core belief that art-making is the ultimate form of adventure, and that all adventures are best spent with friends.
Ben Edmunds lives and works in London (UK). Recent exhibitions have taken place at THE SHOPHOUSE, Hong Kong (HK), L21 Gallery, Barcelona (ES), L21 Gallery, Palma de Mallorca (ES), Tatjana Pieters, Ghent (BE), Copperfield Gallery, London (UK), Asia Art Center, Taipei (TW), Choi&Lager Gallery, Seoul (KR), Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo (JP), Danysz Gallery, Shanghai (CN) and JPS Gallery, Paris (FR). Edmunds’ work is in several private collections in Europe, Asia and the US. Current and upcoming exhibitions include L21 Broadcasting from Paris, JPS Gallery, Paris (FR), Simulacra, Shanghai (CN) and Jari Lager Gallery, Cologne (DE). Edmunds is represented by Tatjana Pieters, Ghent (BE) and L21 Gallery, Palma (ES).