Artist Feature: Ashlee Bennett

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Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a Melbourne based, Australian artist and (almost) art therapist. That’s how I define myself to the outside world, but more personally, I am a young woman navigating the world, learning about what it means to be human. The people who know me would say that I’m definitely not a surface dwelling person. I enjoy the surface, but only as an entry point into the depths! I live to connect to others at their deepest most enduring place. I want to know what scares you, your dreams, how you really feel, what your experience is like as a human on this planet, where do you go when you stare into space? I’m an explorer of inner worlds!

In your opinion, what defines an “artist”?

An artist is someone who really looks around – whether that is looking internally and/or externally, and they translate what they see through a lens that is uniquely theirs. This lens is made up of their experience: emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual. Being an artist is a way of thinking and feeling. It’s not necessarily dependant on technical talent. Skills help artists translate their experience through visual language; skills are like a vocabulary is to words. However remember, some of the most powerful expressions use very simple words.

What inspires your work?

Definitely my inner world…I’m also inspired by human expressions and relationships.

Do you have a certain process when creating?

My process is very important to me. Initially, I am guided by sensory aspects – the way a colour feels, the texture of a material, is it slippery or dry? What does it mean that I’m drawn to these materials right now? I wouldn’t say I analyse myself along the way, I am more curious about what an artwork is communicating to me. Art making is a way my body communicates to me. That might sound quite abstract… The body communicates through sensations, through the senses. We all began as a baby and we discovered the world purely through sense – that’s why babies always want to put things in their mouth! We never stop this kind of communication and discovery, we just add to it with words as we get older, but there are still layers of us that communicate with imagery and sensation. Art engages both. Beyond this, I really try and “get out of the way” of my work, I see it as something that will reveal itself in time. As soon as I begin negatively judging as I’m making I stop and usually finish for the day.

What are three things that you value the most in your work?

I value that my work contains things I couldn’t have said with words alone, colour combinations, and that my work never really feels done. It’s never a full stop, always an ellipses…

Do you have a formal background in art or are you self taught?

I have so much art training it’s insane! I’ve completed five years of art school, and now I’m studying a Master of Art Therapy. Art school didn’t really give me technical skills, which came through practise, but I really learnt how to think critically about what I do. Art school will encourage you to do a few things – stop what you’re doing and experiment with new things. If you’ve done it once and you feel okay, make 500 of them, it’s about really understanding your expression and materiality. Change the scale, if you’ve made a small painting, make it huge and visa versa.

What advice would you give an aspiring artist?

Make and make and make and make. Don’t fixate on needing a style, it’s the fastest way to become stale or turn art into a chore. Know why you want to make art, or at least be open to thinking about why. Trust yourself. Try not to compare yourself to other artists. We’ve all heard the whole “there aren’t any original ideas left” – I think this is fear talking. It’s like saying “I’m never going to use red because someone else used it”, if we choose to use red we will express it in a way that no one ever has because no one has ever been you. Even if ten people painted a separate surface the same colour red and exhibited them, each person would have a different story to tell about that colour. Express what you really want to express and check which language can do that most effectively – it could be done visually, musically, with words, or your voice.

Insta: @sun.rays.art.therapy
Website: http://www.ashleebennett.com/

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