Have you ever thought about using fabrics to create a piece of art? And what about tulle in particular, the one used to produce tutus?
Well, Benjamin Shine has.
Benjamin was born in London and studied at the Central St Martin’s art school and now he’s based between his home town and Sydney.
His distinguishing feature is the ability to create portraits using only tulle and an iron.
He says that he conceived this idea when he saw “a crumpled ball of tulle” on the floor of his studio and he noted its potential.
“Pressing it behind glass, various tones became apparent and I began to test out ways to create identifiable images by manipulating the pleats within the single piece.”, he explains.
He is specialized in portraits (Andy Warhol, Princess Diana and Elizabeth Taylor, Obama and Princess Charlene) and now his masterpieces are spread across the world.
Benjamin’s work has been exhibited in galleries including New York Museum of Arts and Design, The London Design Museum and The British Crafts Council.
Currently the tulle pieces are available through Opera Gallery London and Opera Gallery Monaco and his Elizabeth Taylor Portrait is exhibited at The Grace, a private health club in Belgravia.
One of his wishes is to create a portrait of the Queen, he confesses.
If you’re interested in how he’s able to achieve these results, here is his explanation :
“Firstly the uncut length is piled onto a canvas as a dense voluminous layer. Once entirely covered, I take a deep breath and go for it! I move the tulle around, pressing, pleating and bunching it to form the basic tones and textures.This initial placement sets up the entire process before I focus on the detail. Then the tulle is bonded to the canvas using a hot iron. The final piece remains three-dimensional, set back behind glass.”
Then he continues: “I always envisaged building a diverse body of work with this medium but subsequently became inundated with portrait commissions! Initially the portraits were simply a test-bed for the technique — I felt if I could create an accurate likeness, then anything else could be possible.”
And what about fashion?
Last year Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy’s creative director) asked Benjamin to create the pieces as clothing to sell them as made-to-order from the fashion house’s Haute Couture salons (and the pieces were all one-of-a-kind).
So, for him was much more difficult and he admits :”I had to create the detailed faces at a much smaller scale than anything I had done before, but in doing so it opened up a whole new realm of possibility.”
But, how long does the process of creating the portraits take?
Benjamin answers like this: “I tend to work on several pieces at one time so I don’t time them by the hour, but I like to work and live with each portrait for several months. Deciding the colors is a process in itself. Sometimes a color can has a particular relevance, but most often I will do several tests in different colors before deciding which one works.”
Finally, the most spectacular piece: the portrait of his wife and himself for their wedding.
Do you die for that?