Crimes Town is pleased to present the debut solo show by the London based artist Ben Newton. The works in this exhibition provide a multi-faceted insight into the world of the artist as accumulator, purveyor and master of his tools. Using familiar forms and repetitive formats, he invites the viewer into the world of the collector and the collected.
In the conception and production of one half of the works, the artist has immersed himself in notaphily; tracking down rare Italian Lire in specialist shops and conducting late night bidding wars on well known auction sites. As a result, he has become a DIY connoisseur in his series of choice.
Old bank notes have been collected for their visual appeal for many years and can constitute covetable items of the highest order. The effect of the artist's additional gold and platinum designs on the notes is two-fold; he suppresses them from their current market (that of antiques), disrupting their exchange value whilst elevating them to the status of works of art. He, in turn, now plays the role of middle man, a controller of contracts between the collector and the collected. While the bank note in its purest state is one link in the heirachy of a finite series, it now becomes part of the artists living, evolving sequence imbued with fresh vigour through the act of detournement. The sealing of the notes within thick perspexâ¢ slabs raises a complex discourse on the hermetic nature of the art world; a microcosm of economic activity where fashion, hype, authenticity and institutional control prevail.
The central theme of collecting and fluctuating value is further illustrated with the gold and platinum monochrome works which sit alongside the bank notes. The circular inscription within these has the same diameter of that of another collectable item - the vinyl record - an ongoing obsession of the artist, and one which represents for him "The passionate game"(Maurice Rheimes)- the lifelong quest for the Holy Grail, a series which is destined never to be fulfilled. This same fetishistic approach is matched by the artists pursuit of the perfect gilded finish. His mastery in this ancient craft is amplified by the dazzling decoration and punch-work which mimic the pre/Early Renaissance aureole of Simone Martini, Duccio, Giotto and the like. The halo is the signifier of purity and divinity when placed in allegorical context of the altarpiece. Yet these rayed nimbi stand alone, detached from their symbolic objective. In this sense, the artist in his appropriation of the halo as pure decorative design eliminates the signifier of its pious connotations and, in turn forces its tranfiguration into a fully fledged, marketable commodity.