Interview with Benjy Kean
AH: Are you from NL, if not how long have you been here?
BK: I was born here but moved away when I was a little kid. I have been living in Newfoundland since 2005.
AH: Can you talk briefly about your art background?
BK: I have no real formal art training. I drew a lot for as long as I can remember. Why I make art? I don’t think I have ever had much of a choice not to make art. It’s something I don’t even really think about. I’m not a Doctor, or Kevin Costner… but I do draw dicks a lot.
AH: What appeals to you about Instagram as a platform for sharing your work.
BK: In 2016 I challenged myself to make new work every day. Originally I was going to build a website as a home for whatever I would make. But then I realized that it was just annoying to have to update a website everyday… so, Instagram became my choice because I could upload images and videos without the hassle of sending files to servers and updating html pages. Less work more play.
AH: How was the experience of making new work every day for Instagram?
BK: It was fun. It really did help me to be more creative. The second month, February 2016 was kinda hard, but I kept at it, and then after that it was pretty easy to keep going. I went for 1069 days in a row… so almost 3 years. Now I just make things when I want to. I stopped the daily art. I felt the need to focus on other things.
AH: Can you talk about the use of language/writing in your art?
BK: We use words everyday. Words are great. I use words because I hear them in songs, people say them, I say them… then they just end up written on things.
AH: Something that I think is interesting about your show in the rOGUE right now is the scale of the pieces. As a viewer you have to move around the space, getting closer to and farther from the walls to be able to read the small text, or take in the larger images. How did you make decisions about scale and placement when installing this show?
BK: I work pretty fast and I try not to give things too much thought. I didn’t really have a plan, but I wasn’t without a plan either… I drank a half bottle of wine and sat in the room for a bit before I painted anything. Then I just started and played around a bit until I felt like I wasn’t lost anymore.
AH: When I look at your work, I see this contrast between language that is a little sad/self-depreciating, images that are a little vulgar, and then the overall aesthetic or feeling of the work that is very upbeat and playful. What is your goal in creating this contrast?
BK: I think sad/self-depreciating isn’t really how I see it. More self-reflective or self-exploratory. Sometimes I am down, frustrated, angry… that comes out in the work… but more often than not I like to have a few “larfs”. Having fun is very important. So is not taking things too seriously. We are all gonna die and the last thing I wanna do is be remembered as some sad sack of shit who doesn’t know how to have fun. I don’t create contrast consciously but I guess it comes out in my work depending on the type of day I am having. Ebbs and flows I suppose.
AH: Can you explain the title of the show “not as lost as you think”?
BK: I will leave that one open to interpretation :)
Benjy Kean is an artist living and working in Newfoundland. His work takes many forms including large scale murals, paintings, sculpture, music, and video work. Kean recently completed a mural inside the new Bad Bones Ramen location in downtown St. John’s.
You can follow Benjy @bk____art