Field Maps by Miranda Lawry, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, University of Newcastle, 2009
How strange is this combination of proximity and separation. That ground- seconds away- thousands of miles away.
Charles A. Lindbergh - aviator 1902 -1974
Ben Hall’s creative practice is vast in scope and intention but defined by concepts of space and time, sound and silence, complexity and refinement, and his love and respect of materials. His practice is multi-layered and rich in the subtleties of one voice, the navigator, who knows his own land but continually circles it to find new meaning, unearth lost truths and be reminded of what is and what has been.
This exhibition Field Maps extends Ben’s vision of the aerial view, both real and imagined. It is plotted from the maps of his experience, of the country from which he grew (the central west of NSW). As we glide over the topography we experience turbulence, thin air and mesmerising vistas interrupted by a set of markers that define man’s intervention on the earth, grids, identifying symbols and the ubiquitous detritus.
An artist, architect, instrument maker and jeweller, Ben’s professional life has offered him many journeys that have been shared or inspired by unique opportunities. Ben studied art under Roland Waklin and Lloyd Rees while studying architecture at Sydney University where he later taught design and architecture. Ben is acknowledged as a master woodworker who specialises in Baroque musical instruments which feature in selected Australian conservatoriums and in the Powerhouse Museum collection.
Ben moves, as it appears, effortlessly from a vision of the minute and apparently insignificant to the broad and universal themes of belonging and country.
His architectural vision provides the work with a refined sensibility where light, surface and pigment combine to allow the viewer to project from the infinite to the infinitesimal. The attention to detail, the strong and determined structure, and the poetic integrity of materials speaks of his making of instruments and jewellery.
These works are encoded with a structure of individual marks that play off the surface structures of the found materials of iron and steel. The paring back of surface and the layering of pigment is suggestive of the life force of the earth, the watercourses, windswept plains, and eroded valleys. The found object components at once merge and seek to expose another reality.
To contemplate the majesty of that constructed land both from a perspective of scale (of the individual works) and of the narrative of the exhibition leaves the viewer to contemplate his or her own journey.
This exhibition continues Ben’s recognised and critically acclaimed abstract style but with masterly precision he has refined the meaning of what it is to step outside of yourself and hover above the ground.
Miranda Lawry is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, University of Newcastle, Australia