Local artist Ben Fayle has achieved so much at just 19 years old. He tells FOCUS about his art, the process and what inspires his works.
Hi Ben. Tell us a little bit about your relationship with the Coffs Coast …
I have lived and studied in Coffs Harbour my whole life. I went to Mary Help of Christians for primary school and graduated from St. John Paul College in 2016. I am regularly involved at the Sawtell Art Gallery and have volunteered for the Archibald Prize held at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery. The Coffs Harbour City Council has involved me in their city projects which are art based, and I take constant influence from the Coffs Coast to use in my artmaking practice.
When did your passion for art start?
I don’t remember the exact time I started Visual Arts, but from about the age of 10 I started drawing and had an eye for detail, which led into painting through school and out of school classes. I started then to develop my study of art further in high school.
What is your favourite artwork and why?
I don’t necessarily have a “favourite” work, as I am proud of all my pieces and I do not display a work or finalise a piece unless I am happy with the finished product. However, due to the conceptual practice of the work, Where Goodbye Begins has to be one of my proudest achievements yet, because it is connected so close to home. The work shares the inevitable journey with our loved ones as they face the challenging stages of ageing. I watched my Nana over the years as she struggled with the disease of dementia. The concept for Where Goodbye Begins sparked as I recalled the loss and abandonment of memory being evident in Nana’s eyes. I have put a lot of emotion and power into the work and explored the idea from all points, before settling down for the finished product. It reminds me how precious life is and that it can be taken from us in all forms.
The process of the work was challenging and I faced a few obstacles along the way; this is why it’s my proudest achievement, as this is where my subject media and practice started to heavily evolve.
What’s your favourite medium to work with?
I love working with oil paint; it’s such a versatile medium to use. A work can sit for days and still be wet to work on again at any given time, as oils take weeks to dry. If you need the work to dry as fast as acrylic does, there are additives that you can add to the paint to do various things; the possibilities are endless. Artist Michael Zavros works with oils, which really drew my attention to his work. I started to notice how Zavros used the oil paint to highlight and capture every detail in the skin, to make a subject essentially come alive. The paint allows this, as it has such a soft and gentle quality, allowing you to blend and create a softer finish.
How has the Coffs Coast influenced your artwork?
The Coffs Coast has been a large element in my outdoor murals. During 2016, I was commissioned by Urban Smart Projects for the NBNCO to paint a mural on an NBN BOX. This work, The Beauty of Sapphire, can be found in Crystal Drive, Sapphire Beach. The work has influences of the nature surrounding it, various plants, gum trees and our local opals. The colours I used were heavily influenced by the surrounding beach.
In 2016 I entered the MyCoffs ArtPrize with my work, Seagulls. The MyCoffs ArtPrize requirement was to explore and paint your vision of the future of Coffs Coast. Seagulls are constantly surrounding the Coffs Coast; we can never get away from them! Seagulls are said to be a source of luck, so with the symbol of luck within the work and the coast in the background, I created a vision for a good future ahead. This work won first prize.
In 2017 I was then contacted by the local Council to be commissioned for a mural on the new accessible toilet facility for adults and children with profound disabilities, where I used my winning work, Seagulls, on a much larger scale and completed the mural, Seagulls in flight over Coffs Harbour. I used this artwork as my source of media, as it feels like the coast wherever you are; it’s calming, relaxing and I feel it is a good representation of the Coffs Coast for everyone to enjoy.
Where can people see more of your work?
My work is occasionally displayed at the Sawtell Art Gallery and some local galleries when I am faced with the opportunity. I currently have temporary work on display at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery for STILL life award and at the Project Contemporary Artspace for the EMSLA.
There is permanent work found in Crystal Drive, Sapphire Beach on an NBN BOX, and on the wall in the Castle Street Disability Restroom. I post progress and my work on social media, Instagram being the main source; you can follow me @benfayle.
I am currently in the process of building a website where I will post my work; look out next year, when I have it up and running!