Ben Young is self taught, his sculptures capture the ocean in its quiet moments, the solitude and humility one feels when confronted by something so immense and unyielding. Check out his interview:
Why did you decide to teach yourself how to make glass sculpture? Tell us about the process, what challenges you faced. How long did it take before you had something you were proud of?
I was travelling through Europe at a young age with my family and we saw a window display made of laminated glass in a jewelry store. It made a lasting impression even to me as a young kid and when I was old enough to start tinkering in my Dad’s workshop I began experimenting with layered glass and making waves. I have always been into creating things with my hands and there is something so mesmerising about the qualities of glass that really captures me. I am completely self taught so there have been years of trial and error and testing and perfecting techniques. That’s one of the challenges I also love, I consider myself a problem solver so learning about the restraints of the glass and the limitations to shapes you can cut then applying that to the design I want to achieve has definitely been one of the biggest challenges. The recent addition of concrete to my work has also come with a whole new set of challenges. Combining the new mediums and learning about the shrinkage and expansion of the concrete has been very interesting and I rely a lot on people with years of experience in that field to help with ideas.
You grew up in New Zealand and have had a relationship with the ocean your entire life, being both a boat-builder and surfer, what of the ocean have you sought to capture in your work? Much of your work looks calm, peaceful to the point of serene, yet often the ocean is considered a force capable of great violence, indifferent to the whims of humanity, how do you perceive the ocean?
I guess a lot of my work is portraying the beauty and peacefulness of the ocean, there are glimpses of the fierce side in some of my pieces but overall my work tries to portray the size and scale of the ocean and the comparison of its’ vastness against humanity.
Parallels I, II, and III seem more abstract than the rest of your work, what’s going on in them? What are they parallels to?
Parallels was a earlier series that was inspired by the move to Sydney. It was the geometric cityscape sitting on top of these amazing contours and rock formations, running in parallel with the turquoise blue ocean which I had never quite seen anything like it before. It was also not quite as literal as my current work and in the abstract realm of art which I would love to return to and explore more.
Have you worked with other media? What do you like about glass, as a medium of expression? What tricks have you learned, having worked with it?
I decided early on that I was going to focus on the laminated float glass. The idea of being constrained by the medium and having to work my ideas and techniques around these constraints appealed to me. I think this has forced me to think in a new way and has been a huge part of helping me get to the works you see today.
Glass is an obvious choice when wanting to create ocean subject matter but the material its self is draws you in, the way it changes when light hits it, even the way it is worked with allows you to have so many options.
The introduction of concrete to my work I really enjoyed, not only the addition of a new material and how it looked with the glass, but the new techniques use to produce the work I really enjoy.
The titles of your work seem to describe peaceful, if lonesome, moments, Silence, Solitude, Detachment, Taking Time, The Observer. How would you describe yourself? Does your personality reflect the subject matter of your work? Is art an outlet for you? Does it depict a side of you that is public, or private?
The names of the work are more about extending the theme of the expanse of the world and the scale of its land/oceanscape’s comparative to the human existence. Also to reinforce the importance of its conservation as it is so fragile.
On a more personal level I think it was a battle with in my own self to create snap shots of places of solitude you could escape the chaos and pressures of modern day society.
Your newer pieces, Arctic I and II use a deeper blue glass then the greenish glass you’ve used previously, is there a reason for this? How are you trying to challenge yourself and create novelty in your work?
I am always exploring new ideas to grow and push my work, I felt that a new colour was needed to portray the purity and depth of this part of the ocean and liked the idea of the two sates of water having such contrasting colours.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
That’s a tough one, I have done quite a bit of travel but there are still so many places I would love to see. I think Japan or Eastern Europe would be on the top of the list for our next adventure.