The Human Made Tree
An exhibition by French artist Benjamin Just
Curated by Francis Parker, Curator - Exhibitions at MUMA
Presented as part of CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 festival
Alliance Francaise Eildon Gallery
51 Grey St, ST KILDA
26 April to 20 May 2017
Opening Monday 8 May, 6.30pm to 8pm in presence of the artist.
In 2016 Benjamin Just was accepted as the first French Artist in Residence (FAR) of the Bundanon Trust’s Artist-in-Residence program. This program supports new work, research and collaborations by Australian and international artists, hosting them in purpose-built studios at Shoalhaven River on the south coast of New South Wales.
Whilst in residence at Bundanon, Benjamin undertook a project based on the unique flora of the Bundanon site and Shoalhaven area. Drawing upon his research in sculpture, photography, video and sound to investigate the different landscapes and links between human and nature. The result of Benjamin’s time at Bundanon was The Human Made Tree, an ode to Australian preserved nature, both frontal and poetic.
Fascinated by wood during his adolescence, Benjamin Just decided to become a cabinetmaker. After completing trade school, he perfected his craft at the prestigious École Boulle, a college of fine arts, crafts and applied arts in Paris. After 6 years of technical training, Benjamin decided to explore every single part of the wood industry and to concentrate his research around the idea of the tree itself. Art and craft became sculpture and more generally, art. To aid in his research he joined an art school in Strasbourg, Haute École des Arts du Rhin, where, during his 4 years of study, he experimented with new materials and discovered his own artistic identity, graduating with first class honours.
“My work is inspired by my relationship with, and my love of nature, by a total immersion in the outdoors, contrasted with the experience of urban environments. Through photography, sound recording and sculpting I am able to capture the idiosyncratic moments of my surrounding environment, which then take form through my use of materials (wood, glass, ceramic)”
The Human Made Tree
The residency in Bundanon gave Benjamin the opportunity to start work in a new context. The identity and environmental situation in Australia connected to his interest on how people influence nature and exploit it prompted him to explore the different landscapes in the region and the links between its residents and their natural environment. What’s more, being located in the middle of a forest made it a very appropriate workplace.
Benjamin photographed trees in the same way we photograph people. His work resulted in a collection of portraits that were only photographed at night, offering as little background as possible, thus illuminating and placing the focus on the tree alone.
Inspired by tree felling, Benjamin got in contact with the forestry corporation in Australia as well as local tree removalist companies in Nowra in order to better understand the process of the wood industry in Australia, and the transformation from trees to wood (not simply timber, but also firewood and mulch), and how they could then be transformed back into trees. The exhibition will document the creative process of ‘The Human Made Tree’ sculpture with videos and photos. The tree itself has stayed in the forest.
This exhibition is part of CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 - a festival of exhibitions and events harnessing the creative power of the Arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change. The festival will run from the 19th April to 14th May 2017. For more information visit: www.artclimatechange.org
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