Born in Epsom in Surrey in 1954, Ben is the son of artist's Sally and the late Mick Arnup. One of four children. Ben and his sister Hannah work independently as professional ceramists. Initially training as a landscape architect, Ben qualified in 1980. It was whilst between landscape work, in 1984, that he made a group of ceramics at a college in Reading. The entire collection was bought by a gallery. Spurred on by this experience, it took him two years to set himself up as a full time ceramicist. Since 1986, he has been producing studio ceramics, of a particular form known as trompe l’oeil (from the French meaning: ‘deception of the eye’). His work is largely sold through galleries and is held in various public and private collections around the world. Ben usually seeks to show two or three times a year and has exhibited widely, including exhibitions in the U.S.A and Europe. He lives in York, and is an enthusiastic supporter of York Open Studios, which is an opportunity for local artists to show their work and open their studios to the public.
Press / November 2012
CERAMICS by Ben Arnup and paintings by John Wheeler are being showcased in the lasted exhibition at Pyramid Gallery in Stonegate, York.
York’s master of illusion Ben Arnup will show his ceramic pieces alongside the figurative paintings of John Wheeler.
For Ben this is an opportunity to show a major collection of work that has been produced over the summer at his studio in York and at his sister’s pottery in Ballymorris in Ireland. This summer and autumn have been fruitful for the ceramicist, leading up to a feature on his work, to be published in Ceramic Review in January. In the feature, Arnup will describe his methods in great detail with photographs that illustrate how he takes coils of coloured clays and rolls them into a flat slab to the point of near disintegration.
From this ‘marbled’ clay slab, he cuts the front and back of the flattened vessel that has become the trademark of his work.
Ben studied art at York School of Art, then qualified and worked as a landscape designer. He became a full-time potter in 1986 and between 1989 and 2001 taught ceramics at Selby College. He has shown his work in exhibitions in London, Belgium and The Netherlands, as well as at previous exhibitions at Pyramid Gallery.
John Wheeler is relatively new to the art scene. Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett spotted Wheeler’s potential at his first show at Bar Lane Studios in May. He was quick to invite the Middlesbrough artist to maintain a presence in York. “Wheeler’s approach to portraiture takes a lot of confidence,” says Brett.
“His work is deliberately ‘naïve’ in its presentation, but the artist has to know what he is doing to pull this off. He works simple sketches up into carefully distressed paintings using the paint thinly to allow the pencil sketch to show through. The result is beguiling and invites the viewer to question the origin and story of the strange figures who either look out of the painting or appear to be just passing through, unaware that they have been watched.”
The exhibition is open every day from 10am until 5pm, and Sundays from 11am until 4.30pm, until November 27 2012.
'My premise for the pots is how clay is clarty, a heavy material, yet with it I wish to play with the way we see. The solid textural surface of the pot is contrasted by drawn illusions we can all understand.'
"My latest work has allowed me the opportunity to explore and develop new ways of working, and is resulting in entirely new pots. This 'distressed' clay is difficult to control and has compelled me to rethink how I assemble pots - resulting in the use of new materials and techniques", says Ben.
Portrait 2013; Ben Arnup in his studio, 2012; signature (coll. Capriolus); trompe l'oeil object (source Pyramid Gallery); object 2012 (website artist).