Ben Young’s painting are chaotic, his gestures have an anger to them, they are a pain, a tension that needs to be exorcised, an expression that harks back to the Primitivists: a primal urge to make a mark .
This is marking making as graffiti, a scrawl that is layered with collage, oil, spray paint and markers, unconscious automation, a pure expression of his relationship to the world around him. Everything is here, it is the world as seen through the subconscious; scrawls on walls, movement, colour, chaos, urban living at its most spectacular, a free market flow of advertising that is distilled through media, press, the internet.
What I find most interesting about Young is his declaration of Nihilism. His acknowledgement that we live in an age where art has lost its power, stands for nothing, has been appropriated by the market. Here’s what he says about the art world today:
It’s a good time to be a nihilist; when nothing makes sense in art or in the wider culture. If we are indeed going through what Kierkegaard and Nietzsche called a ‘levelling’ process, in which belief in any human construct ultimately becomes a reductio ad absurdum – the real nihilism of sectarian religion or of a decadent, bourgeois art that stands for nothing, then it is time to step back from the fray and watch the fire burn itself out.
These new paintings are assembled under the convenient banner ‘Happy Nihilism’ with the occasional nod and wink in the direction of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. But more than the Gewicht of German philosophy, these works hopefully point to that free spirit, the happy nihilist who stands outside the burning citadel and looks the other way.
This is energetic painting that serves as an inspiration to all mark makers, to all those who express themselves. This is a testament to the power of art as a fire that can burn down the status quo. Young is an inspiring painter and his writings about art are a call to arms:
I am trying to make sense of my place in this alien culture, for although I grew up in it, it doesn’t make sense to me. The culture we live in is inimical to the truly creative life – probably because we’ve simply forgotten what it’s like to truly live. With the waning of religion in the West – and religion has for millennia been one of the ways of accessing that profound, interconnected, metaphysical realm – there has been a corresponding decline in our knowledge of ourselves. We do not need these old religions for we have clearly outgrown them – this is a good thing, but perhaps we need a new religion. I tend to agree with Jonathan Meese when he says that art should be the new religion. My art is full of the signs of decay and crisis but also of possible ways forward. I read the news, I read the signs and I digest them and then shit them out. The shit is many different colours and quite beautiful. I paint with this shit. Why are we so afraid of shit? Shit is fodder for new life!
My art is about me and my place in this alien and disfiguring culture but ‘I’ am symbolic and therefore universal. A universal truth can be found in my crisis.