The Diverse And Experimental Art Practice Of Benjamin Barretto

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The Diverse And Experimental Art Practice Of Benjamin Barretto

The Diverse And Experimental Art Practice Of Benjamin Barretto

Studio Visit

by Christina Karras

Australian artist Benjamin Barretto inside his Melbourne home studio.

The contemporary artist works across paintings, weavings, and soundscapes.

His colour palette from bold and neon hues to moody tones.

‘Painting has always been a central part of my practice,’ Benjamin says.

He’s used digital scans featuring ‘fragments’ of existing drawings, images and physical objects, as inspiration.

Other bold canvases feature layers of textured paint.

‘I’ve had a lot of different studio setups over the years but having a studio at home works well for me.’

His weavings are constructed on a ‘crude, basic, upright hand-loom’.

The Melbourne warehouse conversion has been Benjamin’s home and studio for the past year.

‘The space was designed as a garage but it’s working well as a studio. It has a lot of natural light and I love that it’s wrapped in glass.’

A view into his family living room.

Benjamin Barretto has worked in many different places and studio spaces over the span of his career.

When he was 18, he moved from his hometown of Perth to Sydney, before going back to Perth to study fine art. He later did a stint in France while on exchange at the National School of Art of Dijon.

‘While in Dijon, I met artist and professor Marc Camille Chaimowicz who suggested my wife and I move to Los Angeles, so we took his advice and ended up living there for about seven years,’ Benjamin says.

The contemporary artist does have an almost international edge and cool factor to his works, which vary from paintings to weavings, and soundscapes, or immersive installations that blend all three together.

There’s a bold quality to each and every piece he makes, thanks to the layered, expressive, and abstract style that translates across this mixed body of work — whether it’s his latest colourful canvases that draw on digital scans for inspiration, or the intricate woven hangings he’s been making since university.

‘My most recent woven works involve staining and dying into cotton cord, so they’ve taken on some painterly qualities,’ Benjamin says. ‘Instead of painting on a surface I’m constructing the surface from scratch with the colour and marks inbuilt.’

It’s a slow, repetitive, and laborious process that he likens to ‘laying bricks’, but it also gives Benjamin time to think, and most importantly, listen to music. ‘I think all of my work is informed by music and sound compositions,’ Benjamin adds, citing minimalist composers like Steve Reich as one of his key references.

‘I’ve always made sculptural sound works alongside the paintings and weaves,’ he says.

And in addition to having exhibited around the world, one of the most ‘fun’ projects outside Benjamin’s usual resume was getting to work with his friend and artist Jonathan Zawada — who engaged him to custom paint a car for electronic musician and producer Flume‘s visual album.

For the past year, he’s been back in Australia, living and working from a quintessential Melbourne warehouse conversion. ‘Having a studio at home works well for me, it’s very practical as we have a 4 year old and a newborn,’ Benjamin says.

The workspace was designed as a garage, but the industrial windows and textured backdrop of white brick walls have also made it a perfect studio, full of natural light, where he’s recently finished work on his new exhibition.

See ‘Scanners’ by Benjamin Barretto at Animal House Fine Arts from December 1 until December 23. 



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