Liam Benson_The Opal Queen_2012_pigment in ink on cotton rag paper_146.5 x 146.5cm (Photograph: Jasmine Robertson)
Why did you decide to become an artist?
After taking a year off between high school and university I finally decided to enroll in the Fine Arts Course at UWS. At the time I had no concept of what it meant to be an artist. I just knew I wanted to make beautiful things. Before then I had no idea there was a community of people who were just as motivated by their creative drive. After four years of being surrounded by the most exciting people I have ever met, I knew I found my direction in life.
Can you explain the process behind your work and the inspiration behind this process?
I spend more time thinking and writing about my work than I do making it. After all, a photo or video shoot will only last a day. The props can take several weeks to construct. But the motivation and concept comes from an idea rolling around in my head over months, sometimes years. Each work comes from a concern or fascination with a subject and how I respond to it physically and emotionally. For instance my focus on masculinity comes from my constant re evaluation of my own gender definition that is constantly being influenced and altered by my environment and my experiences within that time and place. Living in Western Sydney, having been a blue-collar toll collector for 13 years and just day to day interactions within masculine environments (the gym etc) give me space to ponder and respond to contemporary Australian Masculinity.
Conceptually what are the ideas and concepts being explored and conveyed through your work?
I am interested in deconstructing masculinity, particularly within context to how it feeds into Australian identity and vice versa. Cultural and sub-cultural evolution and how iconography plays into the development of identity I also a focus within my work. My most recent conceptual focus is Anglo Saxon Australian identity and how anxiety is fuelling or hindering it’s own understanding of where being ‘white’ fits into being Australian.
What are your key influences as an artist?
My influences include art, television and the media and its depiction of the communities I engage with, society and the way people celebrate their sense of self. Ornament, decoration, pageantry, kitsch and ceremony all feed into my aesthetics. Personal experiences are also a major influence in my work, including my relationship with my family, partner and social circles.
What is it that you want audiences to take away from your work?
As much as my work is a deconstruction of a subject, which at times can be provocative and revealing, I am looking to celebrate and engage with each focus in an affirmative manner. Over all I would like to convey a sense of compassion for each subject and theme I explore.
Tell us about one highlight from your career so far…
My residency in Finland was an incredible experience. It was the first time I had made work outside of Australia and gave me a bold new sense of perspective.
What else do you have coming up in the near future and what are you working on next?
I am working on a series of textile works to be displayed and worn in an upcoming group show with Lucas Grogan which is curated by Lisa Corsi. I will be responding to the current state of ‘White’ identity in Australia and collaborating with Lucas on shared concerns within our work. We will exhibit this show in December at Artereal Gallery.