Artist on File: Ben Shalom

Clare Kendal Bate recently met with artist Ben Shalom at his studio in Harpenden to talk to him about his vibrant art and interesting life.

Ben is a self-taught artist, initially working with pastels and experimenting with sculpture; he then found his metier using oils.

Born in Israel, as a young man Ben learnt Italian to enable him to fulfil his dream to study for a medical degree at the University of Bologna in Italy. He studied in Bologna for 7 years and it was there he met his English wife. They went on to live and work in Florence, staying in Italy for 12 years before moving to Manchester. After working initially as a doctor, Ben decided to become a teacher and went on to lecture in anatomy at Further Education colleges in Manchester and Hertfordshire.

'The Green Forest'

Purple Horizon

Ben always felt that he was born an artist, so 6 years ago he decided to dedicate himself to his art and set up his business Benzioncanvas.  Ben said that he has known many doctors who are also artists.

There are strong Mediterranean/ Tuscan influences in his work with bright colours that pop out from the canvas and conjure up strong feelings; happiness, melancholy and peacefulness.  I found myself staring at The Green Forest happily unable to shift my gaze from exploring the nuances of brush strokes, constantly discovering fresh content. 

The Purple Horizon had a similar effect, the colours are so beautiful and it was a pleasure to take in the peacefulness, your eye being led to the distant orange and purple horizon by an ever diminishing tree lined pathway.  Ben works with brushes and palette knifes.

Ben talked about his feelings towards art;

 ‘Art is all about an active process, to do with your mood and feelings which can produce positive thought-provoking results.’  ‘If inspired I will paint every day, but if sometimes one’s mood is not conducive I may take a 2-3 day break.’

When I visited Ben, he was working on three paintings on the three easels in his studio and he explains,

 ‘I will get to a certain stage in a painting and will have to leave it to dry or until I feel the inspiration to take it to the next stage. So I can end up working on three paintings at once.’

The palette he used for 25 years was also displayed with layer upon layer of intense colours, built up like a relief map of the Dolomites! A work of art in itself.

Ben Shalom

'Sailing'

'Yellow Horizon'

'Dunes'

I also loved the textural breeziness of his painting called ‘Sailing’ and felt myself to be standing on the headland watching the scene.

And the strong colours in ‘Yellow Horizon’ envelop you in calm happiness. Ben is planning to paint this again on a larger canvas.

There was another painting that I wanted to see, called ‘Dunes’ and asked if this had been sold. ‘I loved the sky in this painting so much that I did not want to part with it. I kept it in the house but didn’t get around to framing it.  One day I noticed it was missing, but I had an inkling what might have happened. I had a special birthday coming up and my wife and children had spirited it away to get it beautifully framed. I was absolutely thrilled when they presented it to me and it now has pride of place in our living room.’

Influences and inspirations
I wanted to know if there was a particular artist that inspired Ben and which were his favourite galleries in Florence; ‘There is no single artist as such, but I always found Van Gogh inspiring because of the colours and of course the texture.  The Uffizi gallery is impressive but I love David's Michelangelo in the Accademia di Belle Arti.'

Exhibitions
Ben exhibited at Kingsbury Barn last year, ‘It’s a lovely place and  good to be able to show work there.’  He is a member of David Lloyd Club in Luton and they held an exhibition of his work there in June 2010.

Taking part in our Open Studios this year, there is still time to visit Ben at his studio on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October.  If you are unable to make those dates, then come along to see his work at the HVA Art and Gift Fair at The Old Town Hall in St Albans on Saturday, 3rd December 2011.

Ben will also be exhibiting in the Radlett Artexpo, at The Radlett Centre on Friday 6th January to Friday 27th January 2012.

Ben’s work is so vibrant and uplifting, it makes you feel connected to the warmth of the Mediterranean and like I had just been to a Colour Therapy session.  I recommend that you make the time to see Ben’s creations. His website and contact details are:

www.benzioncanvas.com / benzioncanvas@live.co.uk
Tel: 07711 605878

by CLARE KENDAL BATE

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