Homegirl London pays homage to Ben Lowe. The talented artist who loves nothing better than exploring human emotions in his thought-provoking art work. The young, enterprising Ben made pocket money from his paintings and after a stint racing motorcycles and working as a graphic designer he returned to art and made it his full-time career. His painting techniques are simple rather than complicated, which allows him to focus on capturing what’s important – his thoughts, feelings and observations. I caught up with Ben to find out more …
Q: Tell me about your art background.
A: I had an interest in painting from an early age. I was given a dusty old box of oil paints and brushes when I was a kid, so I was always tinkering with canvases in the garage and then selling or giving away the fruits of my labour to family and friends. This continued at school; in fact, I even sold my GCSE art coursework to a teacher! I left school at 16 and pursued a career racing motorcycles, as this was my only other passion in life. I funded my racing with a part-time graphic design job and sold a few paintings along the way to help pay the bills. Following the death of a couple of fellow racer friends, I decided to knock it on the head and go back to designing. I still miss my racing, and I have to make do with a scooter now (cue sigh).
Q: Why set up your business?
A: After five years of design, I got bored. My passion lied with painting, and at 24 I threw in the day job and pursued my art full time. I built up a body of work and shortly afterwards the ex-F1 driver, Damon Hill, bought the whole collection. At that point, I thought that I might be on to something. He and his wife, Georgie, were my first proper collectors, that was 12 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.
Q: Where are you based and why?
A: I’ve been based in Shepherds Bush, West London for 13 years now. Socially / culturally-speaking it’s a vibrant place, and we have a lot of friends in the area, and it feels like home. I also had a gallery space in Portobello for five years, so I will always have a soft spot for the area around Golborne Road. It’s changed over the years, but it’s still cool in its funny way. The more I experience other cities, the more I realise how lucky we are to live in such a great place. The people, the fashion, the food, the architecture, the music, the art … it’s all hard to beat. The pace of it can consume you, though, so it’s essential to keep yourself in check. A lot of my paintings juxtapose the landscape with built environments … and explore escapism. With that in mind, I guess it’s not surprising we escape to the country regularly!
Q: Describe your artistic style.
A: I like my paintings to display a raw honesty and to be evocative, so the viewer is transported somewhere, without it having to be explained to them. I’m not into super-fancy techniques or sophisticated materials. I’m more bothered about getting my thoughts and observations across directly and with integrity, whether it’s a person, a place, an object or maybe even a feeling at a given time. It has to be genuine and come from the heart.
‘Losing Hands’ from Crying The Unknown Collection
Q: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
A: I’m a magpie, so I gain inspiration from a lot of things, but mainly the people and places that I encounter. The relationships with the people closest to me tend to offer the most inspiration. I also take a lot of photos and collect things I see in magazines and papers that I can incorporate in my work. The internet is also a fantastic tool for information and visual reference. It’s easier than ever before to find inspiration. You just need to be out there ready to grab it when it presents itself … which is why, as an artist, you never stop working. You’re always looking for the next trigger, the following reason, to create a painting.
Q: What’s your fascination with human emotions?
A: It’s what makes us all tick. Observing human emotion lends itself to the way I do my work, I’ve always been fascinated by the human condition, especially the darker corners and inner workings. These days I find myself more and more interested in my relationship with nature, and, through my work, I can create places of solace – real or mythical … or a bit of both.
“I’m always fascinated by the human condition, especially the darker corners and inner workings” – ‘Waiting For Katie’
Q: Tell me about your collections.
A: ‘Candles For Sandy’ is my current collection – based on my time in NYC before, during and after the hurricane. My three months there was great fodder for new paintings. I took a studio in Brooklyn while I was there and got lots of work done. It was a good time. Before that, I painted a collection called ‘Crying the Unknown’ which takes its name from a Madge Hales poem, from her book, Dark Landscape. Her writing was, for me, full of metaphors for how I was feeling at the time, shortly after the birth of our first child.
‘Little Black Hearts’ form the Candles For Sandy Collection
‘Gypsy Cotton’ form the Candles For Sandy Collection
Q: Which artist do you admire and why?
A: I’m an unashamed Tracey Emin fan. She said some inspiring things to me when we were filming School of Saatchi back in 2009, for which I’ll always remember. Grayson Perry appears to be a nice chap, I’d like to have a natter with him … and there’s an artist from LA called Mark Bradford whose work I enjoy a great deal.
Q: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
A: Autonomy. And for 11 years I never had to wake up to an alarm clock. I now have a two year old that gets me out of bed instead.
Q: What one piece of advice would you pass on to someone wanting to set up their own business?
A: You need to love what you do, as this will carry you through the tough times. Luckily my wife (wedding dress designer Ellie Lowe) is also self-employed, so she gets it. It’s hard to switch off when you work for yourself, so make a point of striking a good live / work balance.
Q: What’s coming up for the rest of 2013?
A: I’ll finish my NYC collection soon and have some commissions lined up that I’ll be working on for the next few months as well. I’m not sure after that, and I tend not to plan too far into the future. I do, however, want to do some work based on the people of Billingsgate Market. My forefathers were traders in the original market in the late 1800s through to the war, so it’s always been in the back of my mind to connect with that in some way. My 2012 painting ‘Porter’ was inspired from a research trip for the collection. I’ve also just launched a collection of prints with Loaf, which has got off to a great start, so we’re hoping 2013 will be very busy!
‘Porter’ inspired by Billingsgate Market. Interior by Spring & Mercer and photograph by Philip Durrant
‘Houses & Factories’ – one of the prints recently released with Loaf
If you love Ben’s work as much as I do then check him out at Ben Lowe where you can buy his work. His paintings usually sell for £2-4,000. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Ben Lowe. Special thanks to Ben Lowe and also Bex Simon for the introduction.