A short insight into the work of textile-based artist, Benjamin Shine.
After studying art history for three years, I have found that I most enjoy researching artworks which, in their time, pushed the limits of conventions within art practice. Whether this be through material, subject matter or medium, they encourage contemporary society to question the potential and function of art. Therefore, I’ve singled out the works of studio-based mixed-media artist, Benjamin Shine, with reference to his impact on contemporary uses of material.
Shine bridges the gap between fashion and art, most notably making global waves in the fashion industry for his innovative use of tulle. Having studied fashion design at the Surrey Institute of Art and at Central Saint Martins, he established his studio in 2003; but unlike the traditional artist, Shine’s brush and canvas was translated into the lengths of tulle he manipulated by hand. The artist has previously described his practice as “painting with fabric”. Indeed, when viewing his work, the soft contours of tulle can be seen to echo the easy flow of paint.
The ongoing ‘Flow’ series by the artist puts the smooth aesthetic of fabric to the test through the creation of female silhouettes; crafting an elegant cascade of movement that highlights the still form of the human faces within. In each artwork, a single length of tulle is manipulated in order to demonstrate the notion of “finding clarity out of the chaos”. Contemplation of the image has the intention of evoking meditation, serving as the basis for a commentary on “ideas of energy, impermanence and the relationship between the spiritual and the superficial.”
The arrangements of fabric create floating shapes and lines, with the bunched layers aiding in the formation of facial characteristics. The artwork ‘Within Series- Flow No. 1’ demonstrates how this composition aids Shine’s focus on flow and meditation; where interwoven ‘shards’ of the layered tulle simultaneously fragment the image whilst drawing the eye to the darkened outlines of the portrait. Through our perusal of the intricate lines and tonal shifts, we are able to make sense of the image before us and overcome the confusion of fabric and layers.
Shine’s work tends to examine how superficiality impedes on daily life; a theme which is highlighted through his methods. The use of tulle, a fabric associated with consumerism and the fashion industry, to sculpt his portraits of nameless women draws upon the need to find sense of clarity within a society preoccupied by appearance and monetary value. Whilst the image of a human face encourages the viewer to seek out the individualism of the person depicted; the lack of sure identity echoes the uniformity of the series. This in turn acts as a parallel to the uniformity of current fashion trends, from which Shine attempts to deviate in his reluctance to adhere to solid forms.
Shine’s work has earned him praise amongst leaders in both the art and commercial fashion spheres; leading to exhibitions in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the London Design Museum (to name a few), as well as commissions from fashion moguls like Vogue, Givenchy and Beyoncé. In 2017, Shine made headlines at Paris Fashion Week for the ghostly visage decorating a Maison Margiela coat; a feat which took over three hundred hours to create.
Benjamin Shine continues to make an impression on the global stage, taking part in exhibitions in 2019 in LA and Monaco.
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