“Destruction Creates Beauty” by Patrick Watson

The Courier Mail, Brisbane, Thursday December 2, 2004, Page 30

Motorists often are told to pay attention while driving at night. In the case of artist Ben Werner, it’s not so much to keep his eyes on the road but to keep his eyes on his art.
Late last year Werner, 29 happened to be driving by the Gabba Hotel as it was being demolished.

For five hours, as the construction crew went to work, he took a series of photographs. Since then he has used them to make 33 different paintings, the annual Honours and Masters of Visual Art graduates exhibition from Queensland College of Art.

The comprehensive exhibition features work from digital, new media, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, painting and jewellery art students.

Apart from the aesthetic qualities of the demolition, Werner thinks it is sad to see Queensland’s heritage buildings being torn down and replaced by new developments.

He’s had personal experience with the problem – in the past few years, he’s had three separate leases terminated because of development projects.

He says the gentrification of many Brisbane suburbs is a shame and feels sorry people in boarding houses are often displaced. “These old buildings are being torn down in the middle of the night. There’s a secrecy involved. It (the Gabba Hotel demolition) happened between 11 at night and 4am.

“I like taking little elements and exaggerating the forms. It’s the dust in the pictures that lights it up the way it does”. This explains why each of his paintings has a different coloured backdrop, their varying tones outlining the sun’s rise over mundane objects such as smashed buildings and amorphous shapes.

The philosophy goes that by exaggerating the common things in life, beauty can be found everywhere. Werner’s general obscurity is a play on traditional romantic paintings,, which often point to the “endless sublime”.

In Werner’s art, however, the conventional eternal sunrise is replaced by modern objects such as telephone poles and electrical wires.

“I’m dealing with those things that we’ve changed over time. If you imagine a wave in traditional paintings, well this is like an urban wave. Things are always changing.”
Patrick Watson