'Chimera' - Ben Coutouvidis

Collection: 'Chimera' - Ben Coutouvidis

EBONY/CURATED Bordeaux House, Franschhoek

Saturday 5 March 2022

Continues until 24th April 2022


This exhibition is about trees. It is the praise of trees, but also a contemplation about how trees and people have been shaping each other for a long time. Trees have lives and then the wood is purposed by people. My feeling is that there can be a tendency for wood to be taken for granted, that it becomes a utilitarian object and kind of disappears. This exhibition is a simple reassertion of wood as the subject.

One of the ways I have done this is by making wooden Chimera. Chimera are ancient Greek mythical beings made from incongruous parts. A Lion’s head, goat’s body and snake as a tail, for example.

Chimera are the patron saints of surgeons who are always trying to get body to accept other. I have made Chimerical beings using Ebony, Stone pine and Yellow wood. Yellow wood is indigenous to South Africa, Ebony is from central equatorial Africa, and Stone pine is from Italy (alien to here).

There is a secondary level of where the wood is from and that is how I find it. The Ebony is mostly from the Milnerton market and may pre-exist as art or craft or utilitarian objects. The Yellow wood is from the M3 traffic island in Claremont where the trees are routinely pruned, and Stone pine is common in town.

Having set up this Chimerical system for making work in my studio and as it has gained momentum through time, I have found that it asks more questions than it answers them. What I have learned is that if change is the only constant then the chimerical process belongs in the spectrum of rapid change. It is a response to a world that is rapidly changing. The other thing that I have learned is that by transferring “parts” to a “whole”, both the parts and the whole are entirely subjective and what I am transferring is something conscious as well as an unconscious part.

This means that in my studio I am always trying to make sure that I understand things as simply as they are. Before figurative wooden sculpture can arise, simple carpentry must come first. In the painting of the wooden boat, I am aware that it looks like a painting of a boat, it is not trying to be illusionistic, I am not wanting the painting to be something else.

Of course, when things are simply themselves, they are still profound. Part of my studio practice is to motivate for reasons why a work can stand alone and at the same time be representative of my wider concerns.

Works on exhibition

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