Interview with Aviv Benn: A dreamlike world that goes beyond the canvas

Interview with Aviv Benn: A dreamlike world that goes beyond the canvas

Aviv Benn has recently joined Rise Art, bringing her expressionistic works to the platform. Her paintings are a visual universe starring symbolic archetypes and fantastical forms that pop up, reappear, and combine to formulate the dreamlike world they inhabit. By repeating the same imagery over numerous canvases, she informs a narrative that stretches far beyond the boundaries of a singular painting. Weaving new relationships together, she constructs a vivid, interconnecting myth throughout her works.

Aviv in her studio with numerous pieces from her fantastical dreamlike world (Photo: Omer Gaash)


How would you describe the art you create?

Paintings, mostly oil on canvas.

Cosmos Inhaler, 2021, oil, spray paint, linocut and wax medium on canvas, 70 x 60cm


Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your practice

Whenever people ask me the question each painter dreads, “So.. what’s your work about?” or “Can you tell me about what you paint?” I jokingly say “How much the world sucks.” I guess it’s my way of saying how I deal with existential dread, the uncertainty of being, and this current era and its many upheavals. That’s the inspiration behind my work in terms of subject matter. As a painter, though, I try to push things forward from a practice/medium-based perspective, to make more surprising work, and to make each piece a little better than the last. That’s what inspires me and keeps me busy in the studio.

Not Haste Into A Landscape, 2021, oil, spray paint, oil pastels on canvas, 65 x 65cm


How do you come up with the ideas for your artworks?

The themes in my work take years to explore, and each body of work reveals another facet of a world I am building bit by bit. Each series explores a set of symbols, creatures, and painterly environments that tell a cohesive yet abstract story. The imagery introduced in each series is intuitive and operates as a distorted mirror of our world. Painting is a medium that defies words (just ask painters how much they hate writing those artist statements, hehe). There is something elusive about it, like trying to remember a dream upon waking up. So similarly I struggle to explain the ideas behind my work, they are manifestations of feelings and thoughts that float in my head for a long time, building up and then becoming images on the canvas.

The Horror of Our Image Will Unravel, 2022, oil on canvas, 75 x 75cm


How has your practice evolved in recent years?

I used to make work very quickly and quite compulsively and impatiently. I would also rely a lot on humour and even incorporate text in my work. Since my work deals with existential themes, I felt I had to inject humour to make my work easier to process and interact with. Slowly I moved away from the text and cartoony work, and in the last 18 months or so, since moving to London, I have tried to spend more time with each piece, make my work more complex, and let go of using humour as a defence mechanism (in my work anyways ha!).

Age of Glass, 2021, Oil, oil pastels on canvas, 75 x 75cm


What’s an average day like in your studio?

I like keeping a routine when it comes to having a studio practice, which helps me to bring structure to the chaos that is art-making. So I usually arrive in the morning and work until the early evening, with one quick break for lunch. I view my studio as a quiet and peaceful workspace, where I can focus and paint; unlike other artists, I don’t really “hang” in my studio, I rarely invite friends over, and I don’t nap or read in the studio. For me, it is strictly a space to make work.

Aviv’s workstation in her studio


How do you go about making each work?

I tend to work intuitively, and rarely sketch prior to creating a new painting. I usually start each piece with a colourful abstract ground and react to the shapes and gestures that are “established” on the canvas. Then I slowly define the images during the painting process and react to the world that is created in front of me on the canvas, until I decide the piece is finished. The symbols and imagery that inform my paintings also develop intuitively, and their reappearance in various canvases creates a narrative that stretches over a series of works.

Sights of Nocturnal Burn, 2022, oil, oil pastels on canvas, 130 x 130cm


What/Who are your key influences?

As a nerdy painter, I am really inspired by the work of other painters, especially gutsy painters who push the boundaries of the medium and create daring, thoughtful, and unsettling work. I feel that painting, more than any other medium, truly follows the idea of “standing on the shoulders of giants”, and each painting is created in light of or despite the rich history of painting. In my own practice, if I look for inspiration, or if I get stuck trying to resolve a painting, I find the solutions within the work of painters I appreciate, or visit a collection in a museum I love, and this usually does the trick. Another major influence is reading poetry. I come from a family of writers and my grandfather was an established poet, who would always encourage me to read and analyse poems growing up. Many of my titles are inspired by poems and I see them as another “key” to reading my paintings. Before starting a new series I would read poetry that I feel will inform the work in a way I cannot really explain, but feels right. Once a piece is finished I will visit the same poems again, in order to title the work, which in a way is “completing” the process of making.

The Day Empties Its Images, 2021, oil, oil pastels, spray paint on canvas, 127 x 127cm


Who are some Rise Art artists with work you’re enjoying at the moment?

I really like Sabrina Shah’s work, her expressive and chaotic paintings are compelling and cool in a punk sort of way, I also enjoy Olga Shcheblykina textured, dark, and humorist creations, and Christine Lyon’s vivid, complex and intricate bodily work.

Aviv’s works displayed in her studio (@teeth_dream)


Are you currently working on any exciting new projects?

I am currently in the process of finalising a new body of work and I hope I could reveal more details soon, stay tuned!

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