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  • Writer's pictureBen Fearnside

Accidental Abstracts

I'm often asked 'where do you get your ideas from?'

Well, sometimes from a conversation, a film, a visit to a gallery or my own sketchbook. But often I just stumble across inspiration in the street. This is a spotter's guide to finding abstract art in the everyday. Take this stunning early Ben Nicholson, for example.

Actually, it isn't a Nicholson, It's the side of a shipping container. The surface, colour and design are created through weathering and rough treatment, not an artist. But to me, it's a perfect abstract.

Found abstract. Weathered red paint on tarmac

You don't have to look up to art. Sometimes its lying at your feet, like this worn red paint on black tarmac. The texture, pattern and colour are wonderful, aren't they?

I went to Dungeness with Anita Sullivan to see Derek Jarman's garden, and got distracted by the metal huts and machines along the coast path. I took loads of photos of this one (right). Don't just look at the shapes and angles, think about the voids and shadows. A dozen paintings in there!

The burnt orange compositions are just the walls of outbuildings, but the accidental composition of geometric surfaces, and the association of steel-blue and rust... I couldn't have composed it better myself.

Obviously, I love metals and their chemical reactions over time. But you don't just find metals in man-made structures.

The image below is a cliff-face in Cornwall, with iron oxidising from the rock. This photo inspired 'Bloodrock' and other expansion-crack paintings.

More rock formations, but here the natural monochrome emphasises the structure: the bissecting angles and contour lines.

But you don't have to travel between Kent and Cornwall for inspiration. You don't even have to leave the house.

The colourful abstract-expressionist piece below is actually my painting apron, the leg where I wipe my brushes. There will come a time when I can't repair the old faithful any more. I may just honour it by putting it in a frame.

'Apron' by Ben Fearnside

All this is to say... look at the world as if it were a gallery. Let your eye find the beautiful, remarkable and startling.

Find that accidental abstract and let it inspire you.


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