Benjamin Duke’s large-scale figurative paintings emerge out of the artist’s self-described dual interest in formal and conceptual ideas of identity. The artist’s enigmatic, psychological work draws us into a narrative surrounding how we negotiate our own ideas of individuality in an environment predicated upon shared space, experience, and multi-sensory input. The figure-ground relationship provides a recognizable context for his images of an inner world made up of cartoons. Appearing in dystopian urban and suburban landscapes, hallucinatory clusters of colorful and fantastic figures suggest the artist’s fascination with an idiosyncratic world full of tangential thought and perceptual distortion. The effect is one in which familiar imagery is bound to a metaphorically unbounded psychic field.
Duke begins each painting by drawing invented abstract shapes on the canvas, which he later fills in with representational figures and forms painted from life. He allows for spontaneous compositions while maintaining a visual balance between color and the weight of his chosen forms. Enter the Dragon reflects his fascination with mythology and the concept of “reorganizing” archetypal imagery. Stating that the core of identity exists between individuals, Duke’s work creates a compelling reflection on feelings of displacement and the competing internal and external voices influencing our sense of self in the modern world.
Gretchen Hupfel Curator of Contemporary Art