C'est le courage qui compte [It’s courage that counts]

Benvau

Ben

1987

Painting, 130 x 161 cm.
Materials: acrylic, canvas

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. S0027).

Ben, as the artist is simply known, doubts everything. He thinks that an artist can turn anything – from the most simple human acts to the most banal objects and Ben, as the artist is simply known, doubts everything. He thinks that an artist can turn anything – from the most simple human acts to the most banal objects and events – into (subject matter for) making art, while also sometimes doubting this principle as well. In this line, he converts the floor, the wall – and even us! – into his work material. The sole act of signing ‘Ben’ confers the status of art on whatever the artist decides. He often gives his ideas, doubts, slogans and statements form in the guise of painted inscriptions. He paints/writes them in white paint on black canvases or panels (or vice versa). His first painting of this type dates from 1959 when, after a fellow-artist was not enthralled with the idea of exhibiting together with him, Ben’s response was to hang a painting with written in large letters: 'Je suis un peintre raté' (I am a failed painter). In his work, Ben encourages the public to think about the role that artists allocate themselves and about the meaning/significance of art, both within the limited art world and in society as a whole. Since the outset of his artistic career he’s been confronted with the (art) world’s competition and aggressive self-affirmation, and his work is a reaction to this. Texts such as ‘Art is priceless’ and ‘Without the avant-garde there is no culture’ speak for themselves. The signature is very fundamental to his work. As Ben once said: ‘Every artist signs and dates his work. The signature underlines his ego: just look at how I’m different than the others. The date must prove that he came up with a particular formula before the others.' All the same, in fact many of Ben’s works contain no signature at all; it’s no longer necessary because his handwriting has in itself become his trademark.

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