flatmarkus is an art space, currently in Zurich.
September 7 to October 28, 2023, opening on September 7 from 6pm to 10pm
Notes on Ben Elliot
Authenticity, tempting promise and inherent lack, sits at the projected heart of so much of contemporary society. Wellness, politics, presentation of the self all supposedly circulate being real. Yet, each of those elements, we all know, is firmly powered by focus groups, filters, good lighting and corporate pseudo-mirrors. The work of Ben Elliot seems to suggest that a more authentic experience might come not through faking perfection for public consumption, but being honest about both the desire and ability to create these false images in our contemporary moment. His series of ‘Perfect Paintings’, a kind of the pinnacle of conceding to focus groups, announce themselves as AI assisted compositions engineered to be desirable in many facets of art and the market that surrounds it. The digital as an ideal solution. Yet, they are handmade, the gesture, or at least the idea of the artist’s physical interaction with material, central to their becoming. They are authentic not because they give the viewer what they want, but because they are honest about how they came to do this without sacrificing the unique labor art enthusiasts continue to fetishize. The ‘Avatar’ works operate in a kind of similar opposition. Using digital tools to create the seemingly off the cuff images that populate social media. In their uncanny closeness to the real, they remind that the things they pretend to be are as fake as they are. How close is an influencer’s beach photo to a true snapshot taken by a friend after all? Yet, in their eerie presentation of a character far from reality, they occupy a space of portraiture that is more similar to painting than photography. That is to say honest reflections, if not real ones. Schiele definitely didn’t look like his portraits in reality, did he? Elliot’s interest in the lines that blur art and experience relate deeply to the ways in which image culture has always presented the desires of the individual through fictitious lenses. In his projections of the self and the audience he finds a way through more than simple illustration and critique, towards something approaching wants and needs, both branded fantasy and inherent truth.
Mitchell Anderson, September 2023