Kiwi artist Ben Young isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. “Early on I set myself a personal challenge to stick to the medium of laminating float glass,” he says, adding “I just wanted to see how far I could push the limits and find out what was capable with it.” Sometimes however, the material gets the better of him. “Glass when used in the mass as I do gets very heavy,” Young comments “so this has limitations on what I can physically handle.”
Those limits, however, haven’t stopped Young from creating breathtaking sculptures that attract international attention. Self-taught, Young’s years as a boat-builder served as his only entry into the world of design. “I definitely use my knowledge of understanding a range of materials I have picked up boatbuilding in different parts of the construction in each piece” Young says. But construction is only the final stage in a lengthy design process.
“I have sketchbooks that I fill with ideas”, says Young. “Once I have locked in the design it’s time to work out the technicalities, draw scale drawings, work out sizes, proportions and profiles to work to.” Even within this process, Young prefers to work by hand, rather than computer, commenting that while it “may seem backwards to some…I like the tactile element to it.”
He then continues to play with the forms, cutting each 2D piece until the 3D work begins to take its final form. That process has more recently become complicated, by the addition of concrete, a material that vastly contrasts with the delicate appearing glass. “I love the contrast between the two materials and feel they really complement each other,” muses Young. “ It has allowed me to expand the subject matter of my work and has added a whole new skill set to produce a piece, I really enjoy the modelling and mould making elements that are now part of the process.”
Whilst the concrete does ground Young’s pieces, the glass is the real show stealer. “The beauty of using a translucent material such as glass, the illusions create themselves,” says Young, adding that “the refraction within pieces is pretty amazing…when viewed from all angles the piece is constantly changing.”
Ultimately Young’s skill is his control over his materials, and his ability to make the work the way he wants them to. To see his pieces is to both appreciate the materials used, and in some way forget them, because the illusion they are something else is so complete.