улыбка (smile)

WORDS Cloe Freeman

Ben Robertson is a local artist who has developed from graphic design to street art. His style has changed through the different techniques he practices and showcases an abstract style combined with realist portraiture. His abstract designs reflect a rhythmic and cohesive style which is easily recognisable. Solid shapes of colour interact with each other to create geometrically satisfying patterns.  

Artists tend to notice the unnoticed. Blank walls call out to Ben begging to be painted which the ‘average Jo’ would walk past unperturbed. It isn’t until the ordinary is made extraordinary that ‘average Jo’ is activated to notice. What started out as a jaunt around St. Helier a few years ago, Ben assesses walls for their painterly potential. A big wall stood out above the rest; a large blank surface dominated the area of Colomberie and as Ben says it just “needed to be painted”.

After jumping through a number of loopholes to get the right people on his side, the project was given the go-ahead by September 2017 and designs were underway. Historically, wall murals have held within them a sense of the community in which they centre. Murals are in a sense aware of the people looking at them, they become mirrors of society. Ben’s design is rooted within a similar context. 

Having stood in the wall’s vicinity directly engaging with the public passing by, Ben asked questions such as “What makes you smile?”. He also invited members of the public to contribute by drawing some of their answers. The colours used in this piece for Ben, reflect their feelings. Summertime brings a feeling of brightness and positivity and this is what the chosen colours portray. The visual elements you see in the design are directly taken from the public’s answers he personally resonated with. Ben’s main inspiration came from a teenage girl who told him that her greatest achievement was climbing the Great Wall of China, and being part of a loving family and supporting friends.

The ‘Russian Doll’ design, for me, lends itself to the layers of history and meaning which are built upon through each generation. How the external layer can conceal within it deeper, darker secrets perhaps presenting us with a cheery facade. Having spoken to Ben he hinted at the theme possibly becoming a series, perhaps we might see some elements pulled out from the public that might not be so cheery. Ben spoke about wanting to represent the unknown or hidden aspects of Jersey, what might lie beneath this outside layer?

The feedback of the piece has been positive with people championing the artistic expression and suggesting that there “should be more of it in Jersey” and why not? Whether it brightens up your commute to work or whether it holds greater meaning for you. Any public expression representing the people is a powerful one.