MEET: Rock Star Illustrator Ben Brown

Art, Ben Brown, Blender Gallery -

MEET: Rock Star Illustrator Ben Brown

Artist, illustrator and pioneer of the surf art movement Ben Brown, is known for turning the heads of grommets and music fans alike. If you haven't heard of him, allow us to paint you a picture...

If Andy Warhol was a Pixies-listening, Mambo-wearing, surfer rock dude in the 90s, Ben Brown is the holes in his jeans and the play button on his walkman. 

Ben's resonation with pop-culture icons from Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse to Micky Mouse and Wonder Woman, carved a colourful footprint in the Aussie counter-culture universe. Appealing to both your inner-nerd and inner-rebel, Ben's signature style pokes fun at bogan beach urbanity, and reminds the art world to not take itself too seriously.

Gearing up for his latest exhibition, Sonic Mayhem, Ben took some time to chat about his work & feed our curiosity.

Your work consistently features legendary artists by anyone’s degree, how closely do you work with your subjects?

I come at it like a fan boy. I am the same as any other consumer of pop culture. I don’t have any contact with the subject and view them the way they have been cast in their particular era and level of fame. Rock stars and movies stars are larger than life, and almost not real. So there is always a distance between myself and the subject.

What is the criteria you follow when choosing your next subject, do you aim to keep things even across gender, genre and era?

I don’t have any real criteria I follow, other than I really like the subject or find them appealing in some way. It is simply something or someone that I like. I also wouldn’t pay too much attention to keep things even across gender and genre and era. Ideas and opportunities come your way and you just head down that path.

Favourite artist you've worked on?

It's hard to single anyone out - I like them all - but I like the way the pieces I did of PJ Harvey and Debbie Harry look, and also Josh Homme on a recent QOTSA poster. But I am a big fan of all their music too - so that probably plays a part.

There's obviously a strong pop-culture flair throughout your work, legendary artists and characters. Is this something you do because it’s appealing to yourself or appealing to a mass audience?

It is purely self indulgent  - it is what appeals to me. Cartoons, comics, movies and music have a wealth of stuff to draw on - they are things that have always been in my life. I just think, "I can take that character or thing and make it look rad". It comes back to being a fan and loving that shit. It's the sort of thing you were drawing in school when you should have been learning maths.  

You’ve done the tour posters for bands like Pixies, Blink 182 and QOTSA, who are some other cool artists you’ve worked with?

I’ve done posters for Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Ice Cube, Hoodoo Gurus and loads of other touring bands - but my favourite is working with bands I know and see play, there is more of a connection and you feel you are part of the entire culture of what is going on. I used to love working with 80’s-90’s hardcore freaks Massappeal - we did lots of funny confronting art and their sound and performance was mind numbing and loud. Bands like Cosmic Psychos, Warped, Frenzal Rhomb - I recently did a Hard Ons t-shirt / poster for their tour of Japan, I love doing stuff for legends like that.

Has there ever been a subject you’ve wanted to paint but couldn’t for some reason?

Not that I can think of - copyright or what other people think don’t bother me too much. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way - it's probably more naive - I would just go ahead and do it.

I notice a retro vibe in a lot of your works, what would you say is your biggest influences?

From a pretty young age I have always loved junk culture - old movies, old comics and books. The print techniques and graphic styles of different era’s really appeal to me. The art is very immediate. I like things designed to get your attention, sell you something or shock you. There is nothing better than old comics and movie posters and the way they are printed.

Your upcoming Sonic Mayhem Exhibition is happening at Blender Gallery, opening this Thursday. Why did you choose Blender to showcase your works?

We are a good fit! I love the work they show. We met through a mutual friend and discussed doing a show dealing with all the rock stuff I had worked on over the years. It was not hard to pull it all together and I had a lot of fun digging through stuff. Tali at Blender is so easy to work with, as well as being really enthusiastic. So I am stoked to have the opportunity to do a show there. It's a beautiful Gallery in a nice accessible part of town.

You can catch Sonic Mayhem - The Rock Poster Art of Ben Brown Exhibition at Blender Gallery, opening Friday, July 12th.

Follow Ben Brown @mentalben 

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