Ben Wants to get Zen in Beijing

20 August 2012

Wellington artist Benjamin Buchanan is thrilled with the opportunity to develop his art practice in another country - surrounded by another culture - after being selected for this year's Wellington Asia Residency Exchange (WARE).

From September, Buchanan will spend three months at the prestigious Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, where he plans to immerse himself in the city and his art.

"I was thinking about the meditative process that I use to create my work," says Buchanan, who hand cuts thousands of pieces of sign writing vinyl to create bold, geometric artworks on walls and on paper.

He sees an affinity between his labour-intensive method and other meditative practices.

"I'm essentially tapping into my subconscious. I was thinking about that in relation to art traditions such as modernism - traditions where people make art in a Zen-like way. Beijing will be the ideal place to explore these ideas."

The WARE programme is a collaboration between Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ) and Wellington City Council.

Asia:NZ's director Jennifer King says since WARE's inception, in 2007, it has helped establish strong relationships with cultural centres in Asia.

"Residencies like Red Gate offer New Zealand artists the opportunity to absorb a whole range of new perspectives and ideas, which will likely impact on their work in all sorts of interesting ways for many years to come. Often the residency experience can be quite life-changing."

Since graduating from the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland in 1998, Buchanan has exhibited throughout New Zealand and has just recently had a successful solo exhibition at The Dowse Art Museum

He says his work is based around abstract art and pattern making but that he doesn't adhere strictly to the practice.

"I'm interested in art that can relate to other things - it can relate to architecture, it can relate to music, it can relate to more traditional pattern making like traditional Māori or ancient Aztec art."

Buchanan will create a large, vinyl wall drawing in his Beijing studio and plans to involve other artists and the local community in creating the artwork. He'll also be working on a series of drawings on paper.

Buchanan returns from Beijing in December and will exhibit artworks created during his residency early next year.