Birch Contemporary

Ben Walmsley: The Ones to Bear It Forward

The Ones to Bear It Forward is the third and culminating exhibition of paintings of children by Ben Walmsley. Like the work in his previous exhibitions, The Ones Here Now and The Next Ones, these paintings are part of Walmsley's decade-long development of portraiture marked by his unique juxtaposition of technical precision and abstraction. He combines meticulous representation and free gestures in paint, transparent glazes and hard planes of pure colour, making subtle stylistic allusions to the history of painting from the Old Masters to the Modernists. Walmsley has absorbed the traditions and conventions of portraiture, and made them his own to bear the practice forward.

"To paint a portrait in this digital age seems anachronistic, especially since it's never been easier to take a picture of someone. Digital technology has given us the freedom to take too many photographs. My hard drive is filled with virtual piles of disregarded digital snapshots. Untold numbers of selfies are here today and gone tomorrow. Our images are ephemeral, disposable, insubstantial. 

In reaction, I began these portraits of children, so that I could stop and really examine one image, one unique face, in every detail. To analyze, transform and render that information in paint is a real commitment of time and effort. The act of choosing one face and painting it makes it significant. In painting these portraits I sought to create an evocative likeness that stands alone, a singularity, an object that might attain permanence. The children in these paintings will grow and change and carry this world forward, and it gives me some satisfaction to think that the paintings might exist after generations to represent that they were here now.”   – Ben Walmsley