This spring Ben Catt follows up his first highly successful show at the New Craftsman Gallery with a series of works depicting the interminable march of the weather across the Cornish landscape.
Ben's uninhibited style of painting has won him many admirers. He works quickly and spontaneously to capture the sensation of a colour, the effect of a passing cloud or the ripple of a gust of wind as it moves across the landscape. These are not faithful representations but the distillation of experiences. I tend not to paint cloudless, still days, says Ben. I prefer my work to stand witness to shifting, sometimes dramatic weather, and the effect that has on the sea, the rocks and the moors.
Ben's technique lends itself perfectly to this ephemeral aesthetic. He allows the paint to drip and congeal. He applies it with sticks, sponges and his fingers, sometimes scratching into the rich surface or adding sand. I am not a tidy painter! says Ben, who is self-taught and feels able to experiment. The fact that he doesn't feel restricted by any style or medium imbues his work with dynamic instinct.
Textural experiments on the canvas may emanate from his earlier training in sculpture, which he built from wood and found objects. This love of used, worn out, discarded, or weather beaten objects can sometimes be seen in the paintings - a rusty gate or an abandoned piece of farm machinery - but more often in the depiction of the eroding effect of weather on the landscape. In front of one of Ben's images, the onlooker witnesses a brooding storm sweep over sea, cliffs and moor. Rain lashes down on rolling waves, mining into crevices in the cliffs and attacking ancient granite rocks, before light returns to transform land and sea once more. The experience of being outside, battered by the elements and humbled by nature, is strongly conveyed.
Despite a textural complexity, Ben's paintings are not over-worked or carefully descriptive. His style is loose and gestural, letting the materials do the work for him. Sometimes you know you need to step back from a piece and leave it, if you continue to rework it you will lose that spontaneity and it will become falsely descriptive rather than sensual, says Ben.