Benjamin Laading is creating interesting ways to bring a strong graffiti influence into the intimacy of a gallery space. His work reflects an strong emotional burst of energy that confronts you directly. These silhouettes of shattered glass and splatters of remnants of a scribbled history allow the viewer to have a taste of the emotion only drawn from the flare of a fat cap or the crash of a window pane.
Laading has found a way to bring parts of a noisy, busy, bustling world and successfully arrange them in the clean, quiet, serene environment of the gallery. Benjamin Laading is part of a new generation of artists that are finding ways to “inject” the outside into their fine art while maintaining a clear distinction between what is made to be indoors and what is not. —Ronnie Wrest/The Citrus Report
Where are you from? Where is home?
I’m a Norwegian living in Paris. I was born in Norway, but I grew up in Africa and then France until the age of fourteen. School-time made me early discover I was dyslexic, but this handicap unconsciously made me concentrate myself thoroughly on image. In fact, the alphabet represents for me totally abstract forms.
When I was in France, from the age of seven, I had the chance to go in a Steiner school, which one of their pedagogy is to educate from the personality of the children and not to format. This helped me to have confidence in my ability to communicate plastically. Then, at the age of fourteen, when I went back to Norway, I began to make important artistic choices. I spent my youth in Norway, than came back to France, at 21, to study fine art at La Villa Arson, the Beaux-arts de Nice.
Your work is obviously influenced by graffiti. Did you start out doing illegal work?
Haha ! That is an interesting actual question. There is so many writers who use their street credibility to have a name in the gallery. It’s essential for me to distinct these 2 very different places, street and gallery. It’s important that the streets and its expressions stay free. If you choose to express yourself illegally in the streets you do it for free, it is a gift, a finality in itself.
That is one of the main reason I am using my real name and not a pen-name, concerning my academic works. And above all, I consider myself as a fine art artist. Therefore, I choose not to communicate or use any forms I could have done outside the gallery walls. That is also why I have collaborated with many writers, not in order to imitate, but to treat the real thing, so there really is a shifting from the exterior to the interior, as an ‘injection’. This shifting implies an interpretation, through a process, the result of my own questions on street expressions, as a contemporary artist, treating illegal expression from an academic point of view.
You describe your work as a kind bridge between separate portions of the art world. What do you think it is that has academia and a “more established economic frame” so interested in this form?
I think it intrigues them because it is their contrary, it is the classical vice to want what you can’t have. As much as the lower class dream about establishment, knowledge end wealth, the higher class dream about getting loose, instincts and something to rebel against. It’s kind of a romantic melancholy of the social status.
Does this mean you feel all of the popularity and commercialization is positive for the movement?
Yes, and no, it is a good thing that people are getting interested in this type of expression but at the same time it has a tendency to increases the misunderstandings. It is not because there’s colourful typography with aerodynamics on a wall that it’s graffiti. What’s bad with this misunderstanding is that it gives people the false idea that it’s interesting and acceptable if it’s done with permission, but this idea make it becomes something else that misses the real meanings : danger, action, instinct, repetition, rebellion, life in a system, existence…
The first piece I saw of yours was the work you did with Babou. Do you like working with other artists?
As I said, I take forms and ideas from this lawless streets expressions and inject them into the system of the gallery. In order to do that, I need to use some authentic forms, (I mean authentic by being meaningful in the streets). I try to put forward certain specific elements in the most simple, understandable way. In this case, vandal FAT cap calligraphy.
What are you working on lately?
Nowadays, I am working on a project for an event on urban ecology that takes place in Nanterre, France. I am engraving on a perfect industrial plastic plate, the portrait of a polar bear roaring, enhanced by pollution dust found in freeway tunnels.
What is one artist or musician that has inspired you recently.
I would like to answer this question with an artist’s list that I consider cannot be ignored!
Any shows or projects coming up to talk about?
First of all, I’m preparing my solo exhibition on the 10th of may, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Than, I will participate at Perfusion 2011, an experimental reinvestment of public place, an event taking place in Strasbourg from the 19th to the 25th of September 2011. And coming up soon, a project with Skalitzers gallery in Berlin…
From The Citrus Report