The Collective /SHARE
Wave Rider, Memory Chaser
Stepping into contemporary artist Benedict dos Remedios’ studio on the fourth floor of a large industrial building in Williamsburg, NY, is like stepping back in time. The building, an untouched relic filled with various creative businesses, is one of the last in the area – a remnant of the 80s and 90s when artists occupied many of these former factories.
Here, multi-pane windows supply all the natural light an artist could wish for, while the view of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway provides unexpected comfort to Australian-born dos Remedios. “Even though we’re right by a freeway it’s kind of nice. Watching the traffic is like watching the tide coming in and out,” he says. With references like these, it is not surprising to hear that since relocating to New York seven years ago, dos Remedios continues to draw inspiration from his Australian upbringing. “I’ve always been influenced by elements of nature. Growing up in Australia, it’s kind of prevalent, more so than in New York. So within my work, I’m often reminiscing a little about the things we miss that we know so well,” he says.
Surfing is one such thing, a lifelong obsession informing much of the National Art School graduate’s work. His latest series goes one step further to incorporate surf materials in the construction process. “I do a base layer in watercolour and then I use surf wax, which in surfing is used to create surface tension under your feet, and which has the same effect with paint – grabbing onto the paint when it’s sprayed onto the surface at an angle,” explains dos Remedios, referring to a set of smaller paintings and one larger one. “It’s about the ritual of learning how to wax your surfboard – that memory,” he adds. This process is followed by another coat of paint and sometimes a blowtorch to slightly soften the materials. On some of these works, dos Remedios has also employed a wax comb – a tool commonly used by surfers to increase the grip on their boards and which, in this case, has been used to bring forth the bottom layer of paint, abstracting the work further and adding an effect resembling glimpses of light on a wave. Along with these wax pieces, the series includes paintings of giant waves created with the intention of placing the average person right in front of one and, in turn, inciting the feelings that come with it.
As for influences, dos Remedios credits German visual artist Gerhard Richter. “The way he worked in series of very subjective works – a lot of configuration and representation, and then moved on to his much more abstract colour fields where he was dragging the paint … There’s definitely a connection like that with the waves and the wax pieces,” he says, going on to tell us that since he moved to New York, abstraction has become a much larger focus within his practice. “I went to a very traditional art school and we only studied art history up until Picasso. Everything after Warhol you had to read and learn yourself,” he says. “So when I got here I read up about the history of New York and what that means. And then you start delving into abstraction and the relevance of that.” Much of this research now makes up the sizeable book collection lining dos Remedios’ worktable. And on the walls hang a selection of tools, newspaper clippings, and perhaps one of the artists’ most prized possessions – an original print by controversial American painter and photographer Richard Prince. Dubbed “the king of appropriation”, Prince’s work inspired dos Remedios to create a series of zines. “I sold a few but I try to keep most of them,” he says while flipping through a couple of the originals he has taken from his desk drawer to show us. “They’re just a fun little side project.”