Open to the public Nov 17th Private View, 18th to 19th 2023 Open to the Public at Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall CV37 6EF

Ben Cowan



Art that makes you think



Since returning from my time as a disaster relief worker in war-torn countries, I have found it hard to process what stood for ‘normal life’. Without a threat to your existence, normal life is an existential threat. My reconciliation is to identify as an artist, and my response is to create digital art for a digital future. My art starts with an idea. I try to translate the horrors that I witness in the third modernity into art that makes you think, but also laugh.

I am inspired by stand-up comedians who are intelligent in the way they challenge the status quo, like Bill Hicks and Monty Python. I am interested in art as activism and iconography, often created using text, such as the work by my idols Shephard Fairey and Banksy. My medium is not the street wall, but irony. Which means that my art subverts iconography or phrases that might be familiar to you using semiotics with a deeper, sometimes darker meaning; all viewed through a comic lens. As they say, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Like these artists, I want to take art into the public domain and to start conversations about key issues of the day, such as the dark art of marketing; surveillance capitalism; consumption patterns; climate justice; and our contemporary obsession with smart phones. Whether the final resting place is a chin-scratcher in a gallery or on a statement t-shirt doesn’t matter to me, as long as it starts conversations. Modern life can leave us uncomfortably numb; I suppose I am trying to jerk people out of this state.

The pace of change in modern life is interesting, but also frightening. My designs draw on the past to peer into the future. For instance, some pop art fascinates me. In the 60s, Andy Warhol’s and others were seemingly mesmerised by advertising, packaging and commercialism, perhaps it was too early for these artists to subvert capitalism and its stinging affects on the planet. Now, I’d like to think that’s my job 😊.

Popular culture more generally, is a constant source of amusement and fascination. For instance, the Penguin Classics book covers that I spoof; the science fiction films that provide us with insights; Starbucks creating a $150bn franchise with a menu bent on addiction; or my God Spake series, where I imagine God speaking to us through film quotes and song lyrics, now printed onto 125 year bible parchment that would otherwise have been thrown away. Consumption patterns and products play a central role in our history as well as our contemporary culture. How are these icons symbolic of broader changes to society?

Irony is our laughter medicine. Let’s giggle together now.

[insert joke here]