Benjamin Albrecht: There is more than meets the eye.
California-born student painter Benjamin Albrecht is a member of Dartmouth’s Class of 2016. Currently studying Studio Art and Neuroscience, his involvement in the sciences has come to influence not only his art but also the philosophy that surrounds his art.
Although he did not begin his Dartmouth career with intentions of majoring in Studio Art, after a painting course taken during his sophomore year, Albrecht realized a studio art major was on his academic horizon. Albrecht defines his relationship with art as challenging, liberating and all consuming.
Painting is more than just painting for Albrecht; painting allows an opportunity for idea generation, creative problem solving, and experiencing flow. Flow is a mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment. Albrecht frequently slips into flow while painting, adding an intuitive and unconscious aspect to his painting decisions. As a result of his practice and his philosophies, his paintings are abstract yet rooted in the natural world; his paintings are a lens through which we can view consciousness and human perception.
In my practice and study of art, I am always striving to push my creativity further. A wide range of subject matter, media, emotions and ideas has characterized my work. Through art, I attempt to explore concepts including: humans’ relation to nature, perception, connections, and making the invisible visible. I attempt to convey a sense that there is more out there in the world than meets the eye. In order to convey this notion, I energize my paintings with color, textural markings, and abstraction.
I use abstract forms rooted in nature because I believe a familiarity with these forms exists in each and every one of us, and this familiarity allows our minds to recognize and access my art via its organic origins. These origins allow the viewer to feel a sense of understanding even as the paintings flow into deeper realms of abstraction. My decision to draw my paintings from natural roots is a deliberate attempt to remind viewers of their evolutionary ancestry and of the connections between all forms of life.
I want my paintings to allow the viewer to make a choice about their perception, and realize the potentially infinite ways a single object or image may be viewed. Through the inclusion of mystical and mysterious qualities, in my work I invite the viewer's imagination and intuition to guide their reactions to my work.
Perception is not the same as reality. It is a constructed and unique experience dependent upon each individual brain’s way of processing the information available to its sensory systems. In light of these limitations, there could be a potential plethora of informational undercurrents flowing around us and between us, that due to our biological limitations, we simply can’t consciously process. The existence of these informational steams could reveal the world to be more interconnected and beautiful than we know. Through my intuition and imagination, I attempt to make these invisible threads, influences, and streams visible.
Albrecht carefully crafts this painting with textured marking and blurred forms in hopes of guiding the viewer’s eye across the canvas. The background of The Feast flows in the foreground and vice versa; this generates a sense of complicated figure ground stability that allows the viewer to develop a timeline of exploration and understanding with the piece. The connections between humans and nature play an important role in this painting’s conceptual birth.
Undercurrent (Riptide) moves into a deeper realm of abstraction. In this piece, Albrecht plays with the relationships between colors and where they sit in space to create a sense of depth. Albrecht's choice of color palette and placement provides flowing connections within the painting and guide the viewer's eye across the surface and through the space. One may see this painting as an ode to the world’s oscillating or cyclical nature and the idea that life and death exist on opposite sides of a continuum, one implying the other. Albrecht strives to create mystical qualities in his paintings, partially through the flowing qualities of the paint, but also through his choice in subject matter. Albrecht calls upon these mystical and mysterious elements through the inclusion of the stylized bear in the upper left hand corner. This bear, Albrecht says, is a recurring icon in his work that manifests a spiritual nature important to the conceptual foundations of his work as an artist.
Deep Down (WvS) began as a representational piece that underwent several evolutions, each evolution revealing greater and greater abstraction. The title references Albrecht’s original choice of subject matter that has been obscured by his painting process. The purposefully obscure title as well as the way the original subject matter is obscured through layers of colored line creates the potential for many valid interpretations of the painting.
In this painting, Albrecht attempts to explore how our brains function to categorize and separate information in the world. Through the presentation of informational complexity, that works to generate suggestive, yet unapparent forms, he hopes to open up perceptual possibilities, and through these reveal the sometimes-automatic and rigid ways in which we group information. Albrecht also explores a perceptual relationship between color and depth, and how this relationship can be altered and isn’t necessarily absolute. This painting is about exploring perceptual biases and hopefully emphasizes the inherent flexibility within perceptual processes.
Percept was inspired by optical illusions and their ability to reveal one’s perception as a constructed process. The painting’s careful strokes stimulate the ability to perceive depth in a flat surface and oscillation in stillness. These qualities in optical illusions explicitly demonstrate that perception is not reality and that it is constructed.
Note that there is always more than meets the eye.