Painting British Folk Customs – Ben Edge
Join Ben Edge for this Zoom talk as he takes you into the heart of British Folklore and shares his own journey as an artist and gives insights into his creative practice and process. The talk will include Ben’s footage from the folk traditions themselves, such as the Burryman, the Straw Bear and the Obby Oss of Padstow that have become the Muse and inspiration for his meticulous paintings depicting the ritual landscape of Britain today. There will also be a Q&A at the end so you will have the chance to ask Ben questions directly.
The talk accompanies Ben Edge’s exhibition at London’s Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & UnNatural History
For nearly a decade Ben Edge has been documenting the seasonal folk Customs of Britain, travelling by bus, train and foot to the far corners of these Isles, to capture our often overlooked, unknown and unsung but thriving Folk culture of contemporary Britain. After a colourful childhood where eccentric family members would tell him remarkable stories about their lives and experiences, Ben developed a passion for storytelling and was particularly inspired by stories of the Green man, tales of Old London, and family legends that he refers to as ‘Family Lore’. However it wasn’t until what Edge describes as a ‘Druidic epiphany’ in which he accidentally stumbled on a Spring Equinox ceremony being performed by the Druid Order on Tower Hill, That Bens eyes were opened to the rich tapestry of seasonal folk Customs taking all across the British isles today, that lead to a life changing journey in which nearly ten years on has led to Ben becoming one of the leading voices, artists and documenters working around the subject of British Folklore today. Through paint, Film, Photography, sculpture and song Ben has assembled an incredible obsessive archive of work, with each medium functioning a different way to capture various elements that make up Britains thriving folk culture today. This will also be the first exhibition in which some of Bens up until now unseen photographs will be exhibited alongside his paintings and objects he has collected along his travels.
Ben Edge was born in Croydon in 1985 and currently lives and works in North, London. For the majority of his childhood he lived in a small town called Southborough in Kent. After the divorce of his parents at the age of six, his time was shared between his mother’s house in Kent, and his fathers in Shoreditch, East London. As a teenager Edge became interested in punk rock, folk music and art. These interests led him to take up painting and to study Fine Art at West Kent College and later at London Metropolitan University. It was also in his teenage years that he began writing and performing music. He has since been in numerous bands and toured Europe extensively. Past projects include The Ideots, Thee Spivs, Ben Edge and The Electric Pencils and most recently a solo acoustic project.
Edge is predominately a figurative artist interested in folklore and story telling, whose paintings and film work depict the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. He believes his interests originate from his childhood, where he grew up around colourful and eccentric family members who would tell him remarkable stories. In 2009 his painting ‘The Animal Handler’ was selected for exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the BP Portrait Award. Edge’s grandfather, who was the subject of the painting, was a porter at Smithfield meat market as well as an animal handler in his spare time. Over the years his flat was home to a wide array of exotic pets including, chimpanzees, monkeys, lizards, pythons and and even once a tiger cub that had been lent to him by a friend who worked at the circus. Edge cites his grandfather, as well as his family in general, as a major influence on his work. Not only are they inspiring characters, but creative people who have a wide array of interests, such as painting, drawing and wood-carving.
Edge is a self-proclaimed perfectionist and his perfectionism and personality is mirrored within his clean and precise style of painting and his fascination for the detail and craft that is often found in Folk and Naive Art as well as the traditions of religious and northern Renaissance painting. These combined influences inspired the title of his debut solo show ‘Folk Renaissance’ that took place at the HIX Art gallery, London, in March 2017.
Since then, inspired by a serendipitous experience in which Ben stumbled across a Druid ceremony taking place on Tower Hill in central London, he has been researching the folklore and seasonal customs of the British Isles and was amazed to discover that there were such events taking place all over the Uk. Although he was not entirely conscience of it at the time, a new obsession had been born and he began travelling up and down the British Isles, extensively gathering source material and responding to his research through a new series of twenty paintings and a full length documentary film. This body of work titled ‘Frontline Folklore’ was exhibited alongside a carefully curated selection of objects from the influential set designer, Simon Costin’s remarkable ‘Museum of British Folklore’ collection at the Crypt gallery of the St Pancras new church throughout June 2021, in an exhibition titled ‘Ritual Britain’ that attracted over 10,000 visitors with extensive media coverage and viral exposure across social media.
Edge has also created artwork and art directed music videos for musical acts such as the Fat White Family and Raf Rundell and released his own debut solo album titled ‘New Tradition’ that is now available on Vinyl on Glass modern Records.
Ben is currently working on his latest series of works ‘Children of Albion’ that is due for exhibition in 2025.
don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day