Ben Cowan – Artist & Founder of Art That Makes You Think
“I was away for a long time, working as a disaster relief specialist in war-torn countries. When I returned, I found it hard to process what stood for ‘normal life’. Without a threat to your existence, normal life is an existential threat. My response has been to create art that makes people think, but also laugh. My ideas are rendered digitally, either in the form of exhibition giclee prints, or finding their ‘natural home’ in homeware and clothing: ‘Ideas Worth Wearing’.”
Like his idols Shephard Fairey and Banksy, Ben wants to take art into the public domain and to start conversations about key issues of the day. He cites as examples; the dark art of marketing; peoples’ conspicuous consumption habits; and our contemporary obsession with smart phones. Comic heroes like Bill Hicks and Chris Morris inspire him to challenge the status quo.
He suggests, “A few strong words, spoken softly, or iconic imagery, subverted, can jerk people out of a state of numbness. It could be an exhibition chin-scratcher, or a statement t-shirt. To me it doesn’t matter, as long as it starts conversations. We are either comfortably, or uncomfortably numbed by modern life. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Distract. Browse. Watch. Repeat. I am uncomfortably numb.”
Instead of speaking of jam jars filled with bunches of oily brushes, or paint-splattered workshops, Ben says that his medium is irony, by which he explains “I subvert iconic images or phrases that for you might be familiar, so that they take on deeper, perhaps darker meaning, but it’s done through a comic lens. - A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down…”
Ben says that he creates digital art for a digital future. “The future is now. The pace of change is unprecedented. My designs try to draw on the past to peer into that future.” Ben’s work is inspired by Pop Art, as well as popular culture, such as Penguin Classic books, The Matrix films, or Monty Python comedy. His fans might commission a design for their private wall space, but just as likely, the ‘natural home’ for a design might be a hoodie, a clock, as well as an art installation in a retail space. Ben explains, “In these different locations, as the context changes, the meaning of an art piece changes. I created an ‘ironic t-shirt definition’ t-shirt that deploys dramatic irony, which means that the wearer may not know that their t-shirt is ironic. Whereas the ‘Caffeinds’ collection, which features Starbucks-bashing coffee cup identities, might be best placed on a wall alongside caffeine/sugar addicts, queueing up for their fix inside an independent café.”
He will be exhibiting next at Contemporary Art Fair, Stratford upon-avon November 18-20th www.discovergathergive.co.uk