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Local leaders – Benjamin Shine

By Amy Birchall - 29 April 2015 2

benjamin shine

Artist and designer Benjamin Shine hasn’t had much sleep in the past week. He’s spent up to 14 hours per day creating large-scale tulle portraits (pictured above) and three-dimensional sculptures for his first ever Australian exhibition, on display now at the Canberra Centre.

“I’ve worked with a lot of fashion brands overseas, and what they’re doing with retail spaces is introducing art and sculpture and interesting pieces to make it about the experience and giving people a reason to come into stores rather than shopping online,” he says.

Benjamin has collaborated with French haute couture house Givenchy, worked with brands including Google, MTV and Citigroup and had his works exhibited at The New York Museum of Arts and the London Design Museum.

Dividing his time between Canberra and London (his wife is a long-time Canberran), Benjamin is best known for his tulle portraits and has created over 50 portraits of celebrities including Andy Warhol, Princess Diana and Barack Obama. But success certainly didn’t happen overnight.

“When I left fashion college I knew how to make clothing but I didn’t have any business knowledge. We weren’t taught that. I sort of abandoned fashion and started creating artworks out of fabric, but at the same time I also went down the commercial route and designed a scarf that could turn into a jacket, and that led me into the business world,” he says.

“I had to learn very quickly how to market, sell, manufacture, import, set up a business and patents and manage the legal side of things. About 18 months later I won the Enterprising Young Briton Award and it motivated me to learn more about business and create opportunities. It’s been a case of knocking on doors ever since, and it’s only in the last four or five years that those doors have started to open much more easily.”

He says that while he is proud to have been asked to work with designer brands such as Givenchy, he doesn’t define his career by who he has collaborated with, explaining that “as soon as you start thinking like that, you’re in trouble.”

Instead, he measures success in smaller and more personal ways, such as by figuring out a new technique – which he says doesn’t mean much to anyone else but gives him immense satisfaction.

Benjamin has lived in Canberra for the best part of a decade, which may seem a strange choice for an artist whose clients are almost exclusively based overseas. He says he likes working in a city that allows him to work quickly and effectively.

“One of the things that I’m so grateful for living in Canberra is that when I’m working with my suppliers I can get three to five major things done in a day that would have taken three or four weeks in London or Sydney. There’s a village feel in Canberra and when you build that rapport with people it’s so easy.”

He would like to see Canberra do more to support local artists by allowing them to exhibit works in large public spaces, such as at the Arboretum or the airport.

“You’ve got these very large public spaces, and for artists to be linking in with these places would be really great.”

Benjamin’s art installation is located in on the top floor of the Canberra Centre outside the David Jones entrance near Laura Ashley (the walkway opposite the Apple Store). 

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2 Responses to
Local leaders – Benjamin Shine
sepi 11:10 pm 13 May 15

This is amazing. don’t miss it. the entire thing 9and there is more) is all made with fabric and nothing else. there is no picture behind that, it is just material crushed together. From the side it looks like nothing, except drapes of fabric, then from the front it becomes real. It is really really beautiful. I so wish I had stumbled upon him putting it together. It is near pumpkin patch/laura ashley at the top of the canberra centre.

rubaiyat 4:07 pm 02 May 15

I’m impressed. It is well done.

If you are in the Canberra Centre take a look.

This is all part of Canberra growing up, that worthwhile art gets a mix up with our most used urban spaces.

Now all we have to do is clean up John Stanhope’s well intentioned but misdirected public art. Most of which could be relocated and some of it see if we can get our money back.

Unfortunately simply buying works and plunking them somewhere where there appears to be a bit of room is no way to go about it. It needs to be to an appropriate piece, at the right scale and well presented. That means curated by someone with talent and taste.

Gibbs Farm north of Aukland is a model example. The works in New Acton have also been well.

Canberra could be a wonderful canvas for landscaped works, but the two need to work together.

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