Multi-disciplinary visual artist and designer, Ben Cullen Williams, shares his thoughts on the relationship between physical and digital and the importance of collaboration and taking risks.

What does a typical working day like working as visual artist and designer look like?

Everyone works in different ways. For me there isn't really a typical day as my work spans media ranging from sculpture, installation, film and photography. I could be in my studio, at a fabricator's workshop, on site installing, on location photographing or filming, sitting in an airport lounge or even watching rehearsals for a contemporary ballet.

Could you outline your journey up to today, touching on your time at Edinburgh and RCA, and the biggest lesson(s) you learned in the process?

Following on from school I went to study at the University of Edinburgh then went on to do an MA at the RCA. I tried to take in and question as much as I could whilst starting to form my key interests which created the core of my practice today. Following on from this I worked for a few different people for about a year with my own work taking a back seat until I decided to focus on my own work while assisting others part-time to sustain myself initially. Finally I was able to concentrate solely on my own work. I'd say one of the biggest lessons has been to remember that if the process doesn't include failing, I'm not taking enough risks. I like to say ‘fail harder’.

Ben Cullen Williams: Autobiography - Wayne McGregor

"If the process doesn't include failing, I'm not taking enough risks. I like to say ‘fail harder’."

Was there a particular step that helped you at the start of your career?

For about six months after I finished my MA I contacted what felt like half of London’s art community to see if they would have coffee with me to help me understand how they worked. I was actually quite surprised at how many people were kind enough to to take the time out of their busy schedules. I learnt so much about the different ways people worked and the working methods that would work for me.

Your work focuses on the sensory experiences of light, space and form. In an increasingly digital world, what do you perceive the importance of these physical and tactile experiences/projects to be?

The frontier between the digital and physical is increasingly interesting. Much of technology has an almost immaterial sensory limited interface - it's hyper sleek - for example the the cool aluminum and glass of your laptop or your phone. However, as technology is removing us from an object based sensory environment (books, newspapers, records) perhaps this will allow us to connect to what I perceive to be part of the essence of living - connecting and being present with the environment around us, the light, materials and forms. My projects aim to investigate these abstract qualities of our environment and ideally make the viewer/participant more in tune with their current state of being.

Ben Cullen Williams: still from Synthetic Matter video, 2017

You have collaborated with brands and companies such as Y-3, the British Fashion Council, the Serpentine Gallery and Adidas, and had your work showcased internationally. But, for you, what is your biggest achievement and why?

Since the age of eight, I've dreamt of going to Antarctica. I was fascinated by Scott of the Antarctic and the grainy black and white images of his expedition. In 2016 I was invited to take part in an expedition to Antarctica with polar explorer Robert Swan. During the journey I created a photographic series studying the phenomenological qualities of the continent. This was really special.

And how important is collaboration for your practice/in your work?

Collaborating is at the core of my practice, I love talking to and learning from different people and different ways of seeing the world. Everything I do is a collaboration. Even if you get a photograph printed it's a collaboration between yourself and the lab developing the negatives.

"Collaborating is at the core of my practice, I love talking to and learning from different people and different ways of seeing the world. Everything I do is a collaboration."

Ben Cullen Williams: still from Interface video, 2017
Ben Cullen Williams: Silent Princess
Ben Cullen Williams: Tar


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