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Lilliputopia by Ben V Walsh – An intersection of art and laser technology

By Holger Dielenberg

Artist Ben V Walsh is bringing printmaking into the 21st century in his new exhibition ‘Lilliputopia’, a seamless intersection of traditional art practice and digital laser technology. The results open up new possibilities for printmakers and artists.

Art and Science appear to exist in opposing hemispheres causing a centuries old tug of war between people wishing to protect or liberate the way we ‘see’ the world. Both practices have the power to irrevocably change the way we perceive things.

Every now and then, somebody comes along with the ability to merge the analytic and creative sides of their brain with greater frequency than the average person, allowing them to grasp an idea, break it apart, evaluate and reorganise it over and over until something new is born.

Enter stage left, the unassuming crazy genius. Ben V Walsh. Musician mother, jeweler father, artistic by nature and burdened with a restless inquiring mind. Ben spent most of his life shifting fluently between multiple forms of art until he came across a laser cutter at Space Tank.

Walsh’s curious nature got the better of him and within twelve months he taught himself how to use CNC laser technology to replace a centuries old toxic and expensive manufacturing approach to printmaking.

Hybridization has always been at the centre of every new innovation. Stick plus motion equals heat. Circle plus pivot point equals locomotion. Machine plus human can equal art if we’re choose it to.

Walsh’s artistic oeuvre covers a broad range of practices from painting, drawing, sculpture, 3D digital modelling, mixed media assemblages and printmaking. It seems natural to someone like Walsh that a computer numeric controlled machine could open a world of possibilities. A process that once begun might normally generate many complicated problems. But to the irreverently curious Walsh, such a machine presents a treasure trove of brand new creative possibilities.

Traditional printmaking artists would normally build expensive workshops requiring acid baths with running water and industrialised extraction systems to purge noxious chemical fumes. They buy expensive copper and chemicals and spend laborious hours inside these toxic labs wearing breathing masks and industrial grade rubber gloves to protect themselves from chemical exposure to produce limited editions of copper etchings.

Walsh practiced this industrialised printmaking method and taught it for many years – until he submerged into a period of techno cave diving and wrestled with that centuries old tug of war between science and art. He re-emerged one year later into a bright new approach to printmaking and new tools were laid out. Laser cutter, laptop, graphic software and perspex.

Any kind of image like paintings, photographs, hand drawings or software derived patterns are manipulated with creative dexterity in software like photoshop corell draw or Illustrator and fed to the laser cutter for cutting and engraving using another set of creative parameters. After the perspex is engraved and cut, it can be inked and pressed with nontoxic materials via the ‘intaglio’ printmaking process to produce prints that look exactly like a traditional copper etching – or not if you prefer to explore fresh ground.

People often think that a new technology should achieve the same result that a traditional approach does otherwise they will not consider it to be art. Some of Walsh’s work uses new school technology to recreate the old but ultimately he is not concerned with reproducing the status quo. His intensely curious mind is forever exploring contextual aberrations. His work sits at the intersection of reality and dreams and so when you visit his new exhibition, you will be surprised to see a central vision created with a cross section of practices.

Walsh’s artistic work is the rope between science and art. He challenges us to re-evaluate what we believe and the content of his art happily plunges us into a world of complexity.

‘Lilliputopia’ will open Saturday 28th April at 3pm at Woodworks +, 14 Barkley Street, East Brunswick. Instagram: benvwalsh_art

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