‘Sleep Rock’: Sadie Benning at Camden Arts Centre

This spring, Camden Arts Centre is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of American artist Sadie Benning in the United Kingdom. The title of Benning’s exhibition, ‘Sleep Rock’, evokes a dream state where perception is blurred by the merging of memory, vision and association. Benning’s work makes categorisation and fixity seem impossible, relying instead on slippages and splices to illustrate how even familiar images are subject to constantly fluctuating interpretations based on context, scale and resolution.

For this exhibition, Benning has created over 20 new wall-based works that occupy a hybrid space between painting, photography and sculptural relief. Installed sequentially in Camden Arts Centre’s Galleries 1 and 2, the works read with a filmic register, frame by frame. Through the varying sizes of the panels and images used by Benning, there is an important operation of scale brought into play. Fragments are enlarged or brought closer, photographs dissolve into painterly abstraction, and images remain mutable, reflecting an indexical relationship to the multiplicity of meanings projected onto them.

Scale also affects Benning’s use of materials in this body of work. Large-scale works are built through a process of fragmentation and reconstruction. The works originate as small drawings, which are then projected, resized and traced onto wooden panels. The panels are cut into pieces following the lines of the drawing. Benning applies layers of aqua-resin onto each piece and sands them until smooth before painting and then reassembling the components. The surface of the finished work has an ambiguous materiality, sometimes resembling ceramic or leather. For the small-scale works in this exhibition, Benning has developed a new approach that involves slowly layering resin and composite transparencies, with painted and photographic cut-out elements.

As individual panels and as an installation, the work in Sleep Rockcreates open and evolving narratives by presenting associative relationships between seemingly disparate elements. Benning’s work speculates on an aesthetic sphere uninhibited by fixed categories, in which images are always read next to, through or over one another, locked within composite forms that refuse medium-specificity. This in-between quality of Benning’s current work reflects decades of enquiry into the operation and influence of cultural material, beginning with Benning’s earliest video works made in 1989 and subsequent explorations in drawing, painting and music production. The process of amassing, recontextualising, editing, sequencing, and destabilising both found and original content continues to propel Benning’s practice.


‘Sleep Rock’, 19 April –24 June 2018, Camden Arts Centre

Image: ‘Sleep Rock’, 2018, Wood, aqua resin, resin, enamel paint, photograph, and transparencies 9.75 x 7.5 x 0.75″, Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles Projects, Photocredit: Chris Austin

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