Artists: Charles Benjamin and Paul Ferens
Exhibition title: Euro Neu Mode
Venue: Everyday Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
Date: May 16 – June 16, 2020
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Everyday Gallery, Antwerp
A cardboard box is a packaging system, often with double walls, that is lightweight, large, cheap and easy to store on Euro Pallets. Existing in various sizes, printed or blank, they presented themselves as handy building blocks to Charles Benjamin and Paul Ferens, as they set up an exhibition together years ago. Modular and binding, the boxes kept traveling with them, from their own exhibition space Neu Day in Berlin, to YYY.
Works in ‘Euro Neu Mode’ are spread around the gallery space like paint-splatters, each to their own quality and aesthetics. Benjamin and Ferens shipped a large number of cardboard boxes and an almost equal amount of paintings to Antwerp. The latter all made in the course of the past six years. And another crate came in, holding a dozen collected paintings from flea markets. More than bringing in a history of their medium, alongside their own works, thoughts on modularity and moving pieces are reflected in every aspect of the exhibition, however loud or subtle. T-shirt (Trousers) and Trousers (T-shirt), as well as Pallet Cleanser have metal handles and are designed for visitors to carry around the exhibition. The canvasses tightly hug the wooden structure and are —as often in Benjamin’s work— a playful take on the medium’s inherent qualities and inadequacies.
Mixed with the simple, yet oddly accented (find the little cloth patches, a coin and the details in Benjamin’s work) — are Medieval gateways; be it a heavy castle door or sneaking in skulls. Ferens’ work seems to reinterpret the weight of our visual history. Helping to put the works in place, I expected a depiction of death to weigh nothing, and the large wooden door, to be un-liftable.
The show pushes together all these histories of looking and makes you think about what’s good, what’s bad, (what’s ugly). It’s a tower of threaded and unrooted readings of a classical medium’s ceaseless attempts.
Charles Benjamin (Sweden, 1989) shares his child-like discoveries in painting. Archetypical at its most fresh; the most blunt version of soothing
— his simplified representations bring you back to something you recognize but can’t quite name. He playfully reflects on the process of making; performativity is never far off between idea and execution. Tactile surfaces, depth, and fragility are balanced with humorous, straightforward thoughts on labour and context. What it means to make, and what it implies to be an artist fuel the depth of his practice. References to the practicalities of an artistic practice; from the drag of storage to the effectivity of a bank check: being an artist appears pure but complex.
His work has been exhibited in Gallery Mario Kreuzberg, Berlin (2019 and 2018), Espacio Falso, Santiago (2018), New Day Gallery, Berlin (2018), and New Day Gallery, Berlin (2016). He had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2020), Mommsenastrasse 35, Berlin (2020), and Salts,
Paul Ferens (France, 1989) works in a self-invented field between sculpture and painting. The canvas extends itself into the space, the frame is for draping fabric, a sculpted helmet looks like a painting. The viewer of his work may wonder about Chinese mass production and medieval cavalry in the same breath. Bluntly straightforward in his visual language, dichotomies of time mash. His work, however subtle or frank, dooms up a mysterious opaqueness. This wall of mystery binds the time-warps and crossing references, that emphasise the absurd amassed visual history that “we” share “now”. Draped fabric and knights; rub off thoughts on protection and concealment. Within the mediums he uses, his works equally underline and reflect the depth of sculpture and painting.
Paul Ferens was been part of numerous group exhibitions amongst which at Stigter Van Doesburg (2019), HVW8 Berlin (2019), Assembly point London (2019), Artemis Fontana Paris (2019), Robert Grunenberg Berlin (2018), Horse and Pony Berlin (2018), Positive Gallery Berlin (2018), Temporary space Reichenberger Strasse Berlin (2018) and at New day Gallery Berlin (2017). His work has been presented solo at Mario Kreuzberg Berlin (2019), and at New Day Gallery Berlin (2016). Together with Charles Benjamin he founded and ran New Day Gallery in Berlin.
by Céline Mathieu