CNB Gallery present Ben Edge – Folk Renaissance, the first solo exhibition of the London-based artist.
Ben Edge’s paintings investigate and celebrate the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Within each of his portraits he presents the viewer with a critical and psychological insight into a unique human story, through recurring themes such as otherness, masculinity and the artistic impulse. In this body of work,
Edge depicts outsider artists, musicians, circus performers, climbers, Arctic explorers, fighters and poets, many of whom live beyond generally accepted social and cultural norms.
One such example, The Missionary, the Explorer and the Inuit, 2015, depicts the life of Peter Freuchen, a Danish explorer, author, actor and anthropologist. Freuchen participated in numerous Arctic expeditions, lived with the Inuit people of Greenland and had two children with his Inuit wife despite pressure from Christian missionaries. During World War II, he was part of the Danish Resistance to Nazi Occupation, and, as a Jew himself, eventually fled to Sweden to escape certain death.
Edge’s interest in biography originates from his childhood, where members of his large, eccentric family would tell him remarkable and often tough stories about their lives and experiences. His process involves extensive biographical research before selecting scenes and events from the life he is to depict in paint. In other paintings, however, such as Self-Portrait with Mirror, 2015, and The Fight, 2016, his work draws from his own experiences and personal history.
Edge works on an intimate scale and in a highly controlled painterly style, which recalls the influence of Folk and Naive art on his practice. Through the combination of portraiture, symbolism and landscapes, Edge creates iconographic compositions that are rooted in the traditions of religious and Northern Renaissance painting, yet reflect his practiced, humanist vernacular.
Ben Edge was born in Croydon in 1985, and grew up in Kent and East London. Edge holds a Bachelor of Fine Art from London Metropolitan University. He is also the lead singer and guitarist of the band Ben Edge and The Electric Pencils and previously of Thee Spivs. In 2009, his painting The Animal Handler was selected for exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the BP Portrait Award. Edge’s grandfather, who was the subject of the painting, was a porter at Smithfield’s meat market. Recent exhibitions include ‘Contemporary Folklore,’ Leyden Gallery, London (2015); ‘Nuance Outcasts,’ Angus Hughes Gallery, London (2014); and ‘Punk and Beyond,’ Signal Gallery, London (2012). Edge currently lives and works in Camden.