« All the world’s a stage » – Benjamin Spark exhibition in 2015 at Gallery Marie Demange
Text by Adam Hiram, art critic :
Some will call his art commercial and indisputably there is something to be said for the commonality of Benjamin Sparks’ works, featuring famous super heroes, Disney characters and swaying polka dots, all connected through swirling lines, garish colours and ambiguous exclamations. However ‘All the world’s a stage’, the artist’s latest exhibition at Place du Chatelain in Brussels, will certainly indulge any viewer in the uniqueness of contemporary art and perhaps even persuade him to take a critical look at today’s consumption society. In this sense, Benjamin Spark is presenting the essence of street-pop, an art movement born of enjoyment and the beauty of common things.
Benjamin Spark’s major aim is to make paintings that are enjoyable and easy to look at, for everyone. To obtain this effect, he gets inspired by digging in both Asian and occidental popular cultures and collecting data that he finds in numeric, traditional and pop art, but also in comic books, local customs, science and even old craftworks. All of these elements are taken out of their usual context and reinvigorated through
their integration within an entirely new world that is eventually presented to the viewer.
This new world has no title, no explanation. It’s up to the viewer to connect the different storylines brought together in one frame and to use these to make up his own story. In this specific point is found the essence of the philosophy behind Benjamin Spark’s creations: the artist has a story for all of his works, but imposing that story to his public would be a loss rather than a gain. Instead, Benjamin Spark wants to stimulate imagination and creation every time a person sees one of his works. Untitled for him means that stories are to be made, remade, modified, revised and completed, over and over again. Benjamin Spark’s works have no one specific interpretation, but as many as the public could imagine.
Benjamin Spark turns the viewer into an artist, as he makes him go through the same process as the artist went through. In this regard, ‘re-appropriation’ — the term Benjamin Spark uses to define his own creation process — aligns with both the act of producing and consuming his works of art. Because of the combination of very diverse popular elements into one frame, one spectator will identify elements that the other one doesn’t see. The strength of Benjamin Spark’s art is that his works addresses each viewer in a very personal and unconditional way. It’s this perfectly measured amount of recognizable popular elements that catches his attention, triggers him into an attempt to interpret the elements he doesn’t know and gets him excited about the experience of these works of art.
The venue of the current exposition completes this experience. Six large paintings seem to dominate a space that at first glance is quite tiny. Nevertheless, the overwhelming setting of the paintings reinforces the viewer’s feeling of actually stepping into this world of imagination and stories. Furthermore, when visiting Galerie Demange, he will sense that the six paintings are silently communicating and interacting with each other as a story waiting to be unravelled. Untitled stories are nearly floating in the air.
All the world’s a stage, and different actors contribute to the same show. Spark’s paintings are a form of rebellion against everything that is established or assumed to be so. He opens up his art to a larger public and proves that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the experience.