Ben Edmunds: Everything we already had
Everything we already had is a star within the constellation of Ben Edmunds’ recent projects.
Too cheesy? Yes, too easy. Let me start again.
Everything we already had comes just four months after Ben Edmunds’ debut solo show with L21, presented earlier this year in Palma. The pieces included in both projects were originally part of a larger body of work and thus created at the same time, cut from the same cloth during the same dyeing sessions.
How to differentiate the two projects then? And is it necessary? We could think about them as sister projects, just like the sibling-like relationship between L21 spaces in Palma and L’Hospitalet (Barcelona).
Ok, what about:
Ben Edmunds’ first exhibition in Barcelona stems from Closer to the Wind, the artist’s solo show at L21 Gallery in Palma in January 2022. The exhibition presented his recent body of work, conceived around a central question in his practice: what is the purpose of an artwork?
Sounds better. It conveys the idea of Ben’s latest projects and links it to his first solo show with us. But then, what do we call the exhibition at L21 Factory? A stem, a sprout, a variation, a satellite? I like this idea of a satellite. It orbitates around the same ideas of the larger show in Palma, but it has its own autonomy, it develops new meanings.
Ok. Let’s dive in.
Purpose, meaning, and functionality are concepts distilled from close contemplation of the works selected for the show. The canvases, either dyed or bleached, are attached to the stretcher with the same type of materials used to manufacture adventure equipment. We find carbon fibre, bolts, buckles, carabiners, shock cords and eyelets doing the job of the traditional wooden frame and staple gun. The craft and bespoke work behind each one of these pieces highlight the sculptural aspect present in Edmunds’ practice, distancing from its apparent ready-made nature.
Ben also told me about the metaphor for the need to have transcendental experiences last time we talked on the phone and how he materialises this through what he calls equipment of belief. To me, all his works express this idea, but here this is especially emphasised in Clear Above, visibility unlimited and Infinite affinity.
Ok, then I should develop this concept further.
Ben Edmunds filters romanticism and other ideas traditionally attached to painting movements like Abstract Expressionism through his registered brand Aspirational Equipment. In doing so, the artist connects the recurrent quest for a breakthrough moment that individuals often aim for when standing in front of an iconic painting or climbing a mountain. Based on the promise to achieve that emotional stage that both art and adventure sports offer, Edmunds often refers to his works as equipment of belief: sculptural paintings that are the means to an experience, not the experience itself.
The pieces work then as a metaphor for a romantic state of mind, but they can also contribute to other areas of creative thought, from enriching the language used to define sports gear to questioning some of the main principles in art history.
Materials and production, checked. Aspirational equipment, checked. The pursuit of the experience, checked. What’s missing?
I can talk about Ben’s practice in broader terms next. I’ll quote Cristina’s text for Closer to the Wind again:
“The work of Ben Edmunds can be seen as an investigation into the crossover of painting and branding – perhaps a shocking idea at first, but nothing new if we consider the ways an artist makes work to communicate a message, connect emotionally with their target market (in this case the art audience) and motivate their potential buyers. Referring back to Andy Warhol – possibly the first artist who became his own commercial institution – Edmunds is well aware of his part of the system, maintaining an empathetic and critical position at the same time. Art not only follows a market logic, but it also operates within the intellectual and emotional sphere.”
Good, good. What else? Should I then introduce a couple of examples of works included in Everything we already had and link it to Ben’s general approach to art aesthetics? Could work.
Through works such as AE-5.04 and Where are we now? II the artist highlights the willingness to reach something. Edmunds focuses particularly on exploring the act of pursuing, the process to move somewhere or towards something. This motion doesn’t necessarily have to be forward, it also works backwards, sideways, upwards and whatever way necessary as long as it engages with the symbolic and literal act of looking.
Yeah. I think that we have something here. Then I need a conclusion. This is always the most difficult part. I’d like to leave it with the title, but is that accepted in the art writing manuals? Well, we are actually questioning established ways of consuming and talking about are here, aren’t we?
Everything we already had. It’s linked to the titles of Ben’s works, it’s poetic, it connects to the body of work presented in Palma, it’s a conclusion but also a continuation, it’s reflective. What else can I say? It is really about that:
Everything we already had.
 Excerpt from Cristina Ramos’ text for Ben Edmunds’ solo show Closer to the Wind.
Aina Pomar Cloquell