Interview with Benjamin Sack - Exploring the World Architecture

February 12, 2016

We had an honor to speak with Benjamin Ben Sack, an American artist who is best-known for his amazing pen and ink drawings of imaginary, complex cityscapes. Represented by Miami-based Robert Fontaine Gallery (but also by Johanssen Gallery in Berlin, Ghostpring Gallery in Virginia and Hubert Gallery in New York), Ben has been exhibited widely  across the world. His works are frequently presented at some of the American finest art fairs, such as ART WYNWOOD in 2015 or SCOPE Art Fair 2015. And when it comes to the art fairs, Ben is preparing for a special show as part of the Project Space that will be placed right in front of Art Wynwood Fair event (more about this show you can read in the interview).

Ben Sack perfectly fuses realism and abstraction in his beautiful drawings and artworks. While watching his amazing representations of different architecture styles, a viewer has a chance to explore the history of a number of sites and cities that Ben explored and represented. He is very interested in history, architecture, and possesses a big knowledge in these areas. Therefore, his art is not only aesthetically beautiful, but also conceptually rich. It is also interesting to mention that Ben derives his inspiration from classical music and literature as well. We spoke with Ben about his inspirations, works, travelling, and future projects. And, of course about his largest artwork, Chronoglyph, that was on view in Robert Fontaine Gallery in Miami at CONTEXT Art Miami in 2014.

So, scroll down, and find out more about the work by this amazing artist.

Architecture as a Unique Visual Language

Widewalls: Looking at your stunning drawings and other works depicting imaginary, complex cityscapes, we were wondering  how much of your own imagery influenced the representation of the cities?  Where is the line between reality and abstraction?

Benjamin Sack: Like composing music or playing a jazz solo, my art comes from an awareness of what came before it. I’ve enjoyed studying many different styles of architecture and histories. My imagery comes from an internal, intuitive projection broadcasted from my hand and received by a blank canvas.

Widewalls: Your epic work Chronoglyph has received quite an attention after it was exhibited at the Robert Fontaine Gallery in Miami at CONTEXT Art Miami in 2014. Could you tell us what was your main inspiration for creating this truly colossal work?

BS: My favorite composer, Gustav Mahler, once said, “ A Symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.” That was partially the inspiration for Chronoglyph.

Chronoglyph, in many ways, has defined what drawing is for me.

Widewalls: It seems that architecture plays a significant role in your process. Do you have a specific educational background in architecture or this passion comes from another place?

BS: I’ve always loved reading and studying history. Much of man’s history, whether it be Italian, French, Chinese, Egyptian, Indian or Indonesian, is written/recorded in the calligraphy of architecture (From Stonehenge to the architecture of the ISS). In this sense, a building can be seen as a note or word that is part of a larger phrase or passage — a city. Like an author or composer, I enjoy orchestrating my works based off of harmonious and dissonant relationships; wether it be the juxtaposition of two architectural styles that are separated by two-thousand years, or by manipulating perspective/reality to create a different feeling of “realism.”

When I was very little, I can recall many of my friends drawing people as blobs and sort of tadpole-like. Myself, I drew people quite squarish, very block-like. I suppose a disposition to geometric forms (architecture) is somewhere deeply imbedded in me.

Inspirations and Influences

Widewalls: A large portion of your inspiration seems to come from art history and classical music. Could you explain a little why are art history and classical music so important for your art? Maybe give us a few names that you would like to underline?

BS: These subjects are quite important to me because I believe they are so important to the “human story.” Art has been with us since the caves and quite possibly well-before. An alternative view to history, one that I consider from time to time,  describes our art making inclination as the major spur that gathered us together in droves at the dawn of history and compelled us to make edifices such as Stonehenge (3-2 Millennium BC) and the even earlier monolithic site of Gobleki Tepe (10-8 Millennium BC) . Such massive projects necessitated a well nourished work-force, thus agriculture was born — to support the creation of “art.”

Regarding classical music, I myself studied Trumpet in school which opened the doors to studying the history of music. As a brief aside, regarding music and architecture, the Doric order in architecture (think the Parthenon)  transpired and inspired the Dorian mode in music —a chromatic scale that evolved over the years under the Byzantines, Beethoven and the Beatles— of which the harmonic architecture of Eleanor Rigby is based off of. Its from relationships like this, between various forms of understanding and expression, that inspire my artwork.

Widewalls: I imagine that for your latest body of work you had to travel a lot. How does traveling itself influence your work? Do you have destinations you want to visit set a priori? How do you manage to split the time between traveling and working in the studio?

BS: There was indeed a lot of traveling undertaken prior to much of the work exhibited. Traveling allows you to literally walk on the map, so to speak. My work, for me, is all about grasping “the big picture” — to be able to capture and see the whole world--- to tap into “awe.”

As an artist, work and travel, I feel, are hardly inseparable. If I’m visiting a place, I’ll probably be thinking “how can I fit this into my work, or “how do you draw that?” If I’m not thinking about it, I’m probably drawing it, or taking a photo to seek inspiration from later.

Future Projects

Widewalls: Could you tell us a little about your Project Space that will be placed right in front of Art Wynwood Fair event?

BS: The show is titled Urban Lexicon, which stems from seeing architecture as a type of calligraphy and cities as a form of hieroglyphic language. Though hieroglyphs have roots in various civilizations, they're generally described as pictorial forms synthesized from words, pictures, and sounds. Cities are similar in that they are forms generated from the convergence of a variety of elements; language, architecture, art, movement, transference of energy, ect. This is a concept that echoes within the pieces exhibited.

Widewals: I suppose your next project will focus on cities as well, and on architecture? Or maybe we can expect something else? 

BS: You’re correct to suppose. Architecture, for me, is like paint. There are many different approaches to painting, thus there are many different approaches to architecture. Regarding cities, I feel they are very flexible, challenging and alluring forms for an artist to explore.

Featured Images: Ben Sack; Ben Sack - Song of the Earth; Ben Sack - Score for a Voyage; Ben Sack - Luna. All Images courtesy of Benjamin Sack.

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