Interview: A brilliantly manipulated netted tulle fabric artist creates faces

Faces from netted tulle fabric

Tulle Portraits by Benjamin Shine

The majority of portrait artists use paint as their medium, but British artist Benjamin Shine shapes enormous sheets of tulle fabric into stunning surreal faces by folding and pressing them. Dreamy, tranquil faces appear to arise from the delicate fabric folds in his magnificent Flow series, like plumes of smoke. His most recent Sky Flow creation, Quietude, expands upon his well-known fabric artworks on a far greater scale. The massive, 15-foot outdoor artwork was ordered by MindBodyGreen for their yearly Revitalise wellness convention and has been set up at the Ritz Carlton Resort in Tucson, Arizona.

Shine physically and figuratively reflects “mindfulness, contemplation, and the idea of finding clarity out of chaos” by arranging single strands of tulle into facial shapes. To obtain various levels of transparency and tone, the fine-netted substance is bunched and layered to create every piece. The creation of his Quietude piece took several years since it was difficult to build a self-supporting artwork out of net.

Shine made the decision to collaborate with a mesh producer to create a custom 80-foot by 20-foot HDPE net after several failures and experiments. The required strength is ingeniously provided by a concealed steel structure, enabling the cloth to remain in place. The stunning artwork appears to have changed color from pale pink to deep crimson when the natural light shifts, heightening the drama of the piece.

Shine and I previously spoke to learn more about his sources of inspiration and thought processes. Read on for the exclusive conversation with My Contemporary Met.

Tulle Portraits by Benjamin Shine

How long ago did you start working with tulle?

I initially worked with tulle when I was studying fashion, but it wasn’t until I came upon a crushed ball of it on my studio floor in 2008 that I realized it could be utilized to make artworks that weren’t based on the human figure.

Why do you enjoy working with textiles?

This organically developed from my fashion courses, where I learned about the many construction techniques and the interaction between solid and flowing. Working with tulle revealed a new level since it displays the shape of the material like an x-ray and has an ethereal appearance similar to smoke, ink, or watercolor.

Tulle Portraits by Benjamin Shine

Can you explain how you manage to get such fine detail?

By manually manipulating the substance in various ways to generate tones, structure, and directed strokes, the detail is produced. I use an iron to fuse the substance to the canvas for my canvas works, and a thread and needle to sew the material into shape for my installations. The primary method entails “folding,” which is done to produce the image. When a single, uncut length of tulle is folded to expose the facial characteristics inside the flow of fabric, the Flow collection takes this idea to its logical conclusion.

Tulle Portraits by Benjamin Shine

What place do you buy your fabric from? Does color play a big part in your creative process?

Depending on the kind of material I need, I work with several providers. The same is true for colors; it all depends on the impression or feeling I’m going for. I prefer to work with mid-tones and deeper colors since they guarantee strong contrast and visibility, only from a technical standpoint.

How long does it typically take you to finish a piece?

For smaller and mid-sized artworks, it typically takes a few weeks, but larger ones, such statues and installations, might take months.

Tulle Portraits by Benjamin ShineTulle Portraits by Benjamin Shine

What about the human face attracts you?

A tale, a feeling of intrigue, and life. The more contemporary Flows are abstracted and anonymous, in contrast to the portraits, which are meticulously detailed to produce a striking resemblance to the person they are painting.

Tulle Portraits by Benjamin ShineTulle Portraits by Benjamin Shine

Would you mind sharing any future plans or shows?

I’ll be giving a discussion at the Gallery of Arts and Design as part of Textile Month New York, which runs through September, and new pieces from my continuing Flow series will also be on display at Boccara Museum in New York.

Tulle Portraits by Benjamin ShineTulle Portraits by Benjamin ShineTulle Portraits by Benjamin ShineTulle Portraits by Benjamin Shine

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