Griffith artist takes the path less travelled

Griffith alumnus Ben Werner has followed a circuitous path to success, from high-school drop-out and labourer to communicating complex scientific concepts through art and leading his own international arts company.

He’s unveiled his latest large-scale mural at Dutton Park State School,where he was Artist In Residence of the Science Mural Project.

I was selected as the Queensland Science Artist in Residence for 2019, so I was able to work closely with the researchers at the Dutton Park Ecoscience Precinct in Brisbane,” he said.

“My work looks at the connective ways that all parts of the earth work together and the same with the residency, it’s the way that art and science can come together and, yeah, work together.”

His art practice started with a Bachelor of Fine Art with Honours at the Queensland College of Art.

“My honours work was all about light and dark, and it’s been what I’ve followed the last 15 years since graduating,” he said.

“I’ve explored cities all around the world, and slowly it’s turned into looking at more natural events such as coral spawning, fireflies and bioluminescence, which, when you photograph them, look exactly like cities.”

Co-director of All City Walls and All City Art Services, Ben’s vision is to create contemporary creative murals on a vast scale, and support the preservation of art already in existence.

He completed a residency in Singapore last year and exhibited at the Australian High Commission, also taking part in the Hong Kong Art Fair, developing connections through the art handling network.

He’s proud of creating a thriving international business that employs Brisbane artists.

“My business partner, Yannick Blattner and I had been painting murals for a long time, and we both had our own businesses painting them, and whenever we would get a big job, we would bring other artists in to finish, help complete these jobs,” he explained.

“We had the opportunity last year to work on a very large project for the Queen’s Wharf, a new casino in Brisbane and to paint another artist’s work, called Alice Lang, who resides in LA, another Brisbane artist. We had a meeting and we decided to finally put together our skills and form the company.”

Ben’s excited by the possibilities the mural at Dutton Park State School holds for students.

“We had a participation day with the mural, where every class from the school came through and they split into two groups,” Ben says.

“One group had the 3-D glasses and the other half painted with my business partner and I, and the reactions to being able to paint with us, and to see the mural come alive with the 3-D glasses was just awesome.”

“Then just have some of the parents come in the afternoon, as well as the staff from Queensland Science, all came to paint. It was just amazing to see how the community can get together, and get that ownership of an artwork as well.”

It’s a long way from his school-days.

“I actually went out to work at 14 years old. Went out doing all the jobs you can think of, whether it’s jackhammering, mixing concrete, and throwing bricks, and driving forklifts,” he said.

“Every one of those people, I’m still in contact with. A lot of old businesses I used to work for, all just so proud and so amazed at what you can do if you want to push forward.”

He hopes his story encourages others.

“I know a lot of people have gone and started painting a lot later than me, and they’re marvellous artists.”

Hear more of Ben’s story on the Remarkable Tales podcast.