Scammed repeatedly upon arrival, simple living, surviving Dengue fever and a rich vein of art…

These were just some of the shocks presented to emerging artist and 2015 ‘We Get By’ prize winner Ben Kenning during his 2 month sojourn to India to take up an ‘artist in residence’ placement in the southern suburbs of Mumbai!

On the other hand Ben was inspired by India, ‘it was a visual and sensory overload’ he said, which lead to a productive vein of art produced at his studio at Space 118. In fact he says ‘the response to my work in Mumbai varied from the previously internalised influences of my work.’ Here it is now all before him!

ben kenning artist

On the Corner at the Circle | Ben Kenning

India provided deep challenges for him personally plus comprehending the mirage of the following: 40 degree temperatures daily, fires by the road, the impressions of poverty, slums and over population. It truly gives context to ‘insignificance of one’.

He took time to understand the poor living standards so different to what we take for granted in Australia. However more importantly to Ben was the attitude of most people of just ‘getting by!’ He realised he would need to change his perspective, here there were life challenges every day and how resilient are the Indian people!  He discovered the caring spirit of the people, the community based living, thinking, and sharing. This extended to his observation of poor people sharing or giving what they could to those less fortunate than themselves.

India, unlike other countries Ben has visited provided little history of art to study vs the viewing of art in Western countries. He was limited in his travels, but he was not inspired by the contemporary art he saw. His inspiration was to be found in the awareness of his surroundings and the quality of what he saw!

Ben Kenning Artist

Home Crows in the Sky Malabar | Ben Kenning

Observation and interpretation provided the experience and influenced the development of his art. He became aware of new responses, new themes, content and subject matter. In this short travel was the inspiration to this new exhibition!

So I asked him, have you completed the India theme? Well his style and imagery seemed to be one most suited to India, more so than other countries he has travelled; Thailand, Vietnam, China.

His new paintings complimented the culture, busyness, frenetic activity and colours so much a part of India! Also he was influenced by the disintegration of the cities infrastructure through the passage of time and the effects of nature. He observed the half stage of ruin versus new structures rising. This phenomena is reflected in some of the exhibition workings.

Do you regard your Indian experience a game changer? Ben said it was the most consistent body of work he’d produced for a long time. He reinforced the strength, style and alternate subject matter to respond to was a positive development as opposed to working from the imagination alone. The influence of being in and experiencing India was important and the universal theme for the show. He feels he has developed a mastery and control over his art process which was exhilarating.

Ben Kenning Artist

Shinto and Stray Fight Over Food | Ben Kenning

To conclude; India, was Ben’s shot in the arm for his art and personally. ‘Newcastle is my home and I’m happy to be here, however a filter is presented here at home and the influence of the local landscape, culture and art combine to contain one’s vision. Once these filters are removed in new environments I can respond to my experience with greater curiosity, focus and interest. The new, becomes the catalyst for me personally as such with my art! ‘Says Ben.

Ben Kenning will be present at the opening of his new solo show ‘Mazgaon Musings’ at Cooks Hill Galleries on Saturday February 13 3-5 pm. The artist talk, Q&A and ‘art tour’ for the show will commence at approximately 3:40 pm.

You can RSVP for this exciting event here.

Yours in art,

Mark Widdup
CHG Director



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