Ben Whitehouse is a painter and video artist who cares deeply about our environment and how we relate to it. Here you can find out more about the ideas behind the work and read what curators and critics have had to say. Click on an image below to begin.
It seems only natural that Whitehouse's interest in creating artworks that expand the possibilities of marking time and recording transitions via the plein air experience would lead him to his most ground-breaking new body of work - Revolution - a series of state-of-the-art twenty four hour single shot HD videos that record every movement, every, shift of light that occurs in the composition for an entire twenty four hour period - one revolution of the earth. The Revolution Series was conceived in December of 2002 as a means of recording the fleeting moments of an entire day through twenty four hour seamless digital 'paintings'. Compositions unfold before the viewer as incremental changes of light and sound. The revolution works have precedent in the underground films of Any Warhole, such as Empire which depicted the 'stillness' of the Empire State Building from day to night until film ran out of the camera. Debuting at the Tarble Arts Center is Whitehouse's Revolution: Bowl of Fruit a still-life inspired by Monet's Still Life with Apples and Grapes 1980 (Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago). As this work plays in the gallery the viewer sees barely perceptible changes in light and infinitesimal movement through a window. Whitehouse takes the fleeting quality of Impressionism that helped define the speed of modern life in the twentieth century and reveals it to be a fallacy. Look, he suggests, life moves at a much slower pace than we ever imagined.
What do you see as the world revolves before your eyes? - John Brunetti, Independent Critic and Curator
Whitehouse's works are beautifully conceived and meticulously executed visual art works. They can be seen in a minute or studies for hours and they reward the viewer in direct relation to the time spent viewing them. - Maxine Gaiber, Executive Director, The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
The changes in the New York piece are especially beautiful, as the park’s entire South-to-North expanse is dappled by light that breaks through clouds as ambient sound wafts up from streets. Since the changes are experienced in actual time, the pieces achieved heightened intensity from having had the “real” world given a sharper focus by the frame Whitehouse put around them”. Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune
Revolution Central Park, 2006, 24 hours (clip)
Revolution Bowl of Fruit, 2007, 24 hours (clip)
Revolution Stonehenge, 2010, 24 hours (clip)
Revolution North Bar Lake, 2006, 24 hours (clip)
Times Square, 2006/7
Perimeter Gallery, 2010
McNay Art Museum, 2010
Crocker Art Museum, 2012/13
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, 2006/7
Towson University, 2013
Grand Rapids Art Museum, 2010
The qualities of the environment that most attracted Whitehouse in the early years of his career were its fluidity and its transitional nature, that it was never static and it never repeated itself. - J. Susan Isaacs, Curator, DCCA
Watch Series paintings are twenty four hour paintings made from direct observation of changing light in the sky over complete day/night cycles. The light observed is a result of several factors including the earth's evolving relationship to the sun, of course, and atmospheric conditions of the moment but another factor impacting perceived light is pollution levels. Particulate matter in the atmosphere is well understood to reflect and refract light and Watch in a real sense records the extent to which we are 'painting' the sky with our emissions.
Watches are sometimes made in conjunction with the making of Revolution videos (twenty-four hour videos). Some Watches take the form of twenty-four discrete observations made on the hour, every hour on separate panels. Others are continuous paintings on circular panels in which case the observed light changes are experienced as a seamless shift of the hue and value or as abrupt bands of light as when a storm flashes through the space. In either case Watch paintings are made from close, direct observation of sky light changing over time.
Whitehouse has always been interested in the physics of light, the way it behaves as both particle and wave. The Watch Series responds to some of these ideas in the different ways the pieces are configured when installed. Watch over the Water offers an image of light as both particle and wave, for example. Watch over Time offers time as a cyclical event and Watch Forward is configured as a vector to offer an image of time as a relentless progression forward.
Forward Looking, 2014, Oil on twenty four 4" x 4" Panels, 4" x 104"
Watch over Time, 2006/7, Oil on three 48" Diameter Panels, 48" x 180"
Watch over Time, detail
Watch over the Water, 2006, Oil on twenty four 3" x 3" Panels, 50" x 100"
Watch over Central Park, 2006, forty-eight 4" x 4" panels, 60" x 120 (studio installation)
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts Installation, 2006/7
Alfedena Installation, 2007
Evanston Art Center Installation, 2014
Tarble Art Center, Eastern Illinois University, 2008
Unlike Revolution and Watch pieces which are both twenty-four hour responses to evolving experience and changing light, Horizons are executed extremely quickly since the objective is to capture fleeting relationships of light on the water and in the sky at the horizon of the world's oceans and great lakes in real time. For this on-going series Whitehouse designed special light boxes and painting stages to allow him to react both quickly and accurately at all times of day and night.
From a formal point of view Horizons is indebted to colour field painting but rather than freeing colour from objective context Horizons goes the other way, tying painting tightly to observed light relationships while at the same time walking the line between deep space and modernist flatness. In recognition of the fact that only the viewer can ever be in their eye space Horizons uses the diptych form so as to leave an opening at the point where sky meets water. In this way the beholder is given the freedom to complete the work themselves.
Artforum (Feb 2003) Whitehouse employs a rather taut paint handling reminiscent at times of the pale, summery Impressionism of early Alfred Sisley, or of the landscapes of William Merritt Chase. His brushstrokes accrete patiently and unobtrusively, seemingly in accord with the scene he represents, reinforcing an air of equanimity and calm. His composition, too, with its tendency toward classical construction-framing elements, ease of access, parity of light and dark, etc.-presents the landscape as a realm of balance and logic. Whitehouse`s activity, like the scenes he represents, seems almost outside time, indifferent to the fashions of art or the vagaries of the contemporary. Like nature, this work abides, and its pertinence resides in the inexhaustible relevance of its fundamental aspiration: to try to find again in the surrounding world a harmony that passes understanding, a manner of thinking of nature as meta- and paraphysical home. - James Yood
Chicago Sun-Times (Mar 30 2001) Whitehouse is trying to record not not an idea or even a sight but the whole experience of being in nature. To do that he often sets up his easel in the middle of a stream or on the edge of a cliff to get just the right view. More than once he has painted through a Scottish downpour. The result is paintings that capture a sense of not any one place so much as a universal space, a web of natural surroundings composed of mist and water and snow and the occasional outcropping of foliage and greenery. - Margaret Hawkins
New Art Examiner (Mar 2000) Whitehouse can be placed within the venerable British Landscape tradition in painting but his brilliant, lapidary, and monumental (some are ten feet wide) landscapes are not advertisements for old-fashioned ocularism. His ambition - as he has reiterated in statements and lectures - is no less than to reproduce the ontology, or the roots, of human perception itself. Bolstered by new research that suggests that certain aspects of human perception are universal - that all people tend to "see" the same thing because their nervous systems are organized in the same way - Whitehouse has set out in his paintings to capture what he thinks might be shared perceptual experience. He wants us to see what he sees, literally. He doesn't just want the impressionistic play of light on a tree, he wants the reality of the tree too." - Polly Ullrich
Treetops, Oil on Canvas, 72" x 96", Collection of the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Elm, Oil on Canvas, 60" x 40", Commissioned by Arthur Zeckendorf for 15 Central Park West, NY
Daybreak, Oil on Canvas, 68" x 96", Collection of the Artist
Charcoal study for 'River (Autumn)', 28" x 38", Collection of the Artist
Projections for Symphonic Performance
ESO Music Director Stephen Alltop commissioned Whitehouse to make a series of video projections to accompany live symphonic performances of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.
Projection for Concerto No. 1 in E Major, "Spring" (Allegro)
Projection for Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, "Summer" (Adagio e piano)
Projection for Concerto No. 3 in F Major, "Autumn" (Allegro)
Projection for Concerto No. 4 in F minor, The "Winter" Movements
Solo Shows and Installations
2014 EAC. 2012/13 Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA. Perimeter Gallery, Chicago. 2010 McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX. Perimeter Gallery, Chicago. 2009 Arkansas Art Center. 2008 Tarble Art Center, Eastern Illinois University. 2007 Alfedena, Chicago. Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. David Klein Gallery. 2006 Times Square, NY. 2005 Gallery Henoch, NY. 2003 Grand Rapids Art Museum. 2002 Belloc Lowndes Fine Art, Chicago. 2001 Gallery Henoch, NY. Waller Museum, IL. 1998 Chicago Cultural Center 1996 Capstick-Dale Gallery, NY
2013 Encountering Nature, Towson University. 2010 GRAM at Oxbow, Grand Rapids Art Museum. 2008 HereThereEverywhere, Chicago Cultural Center. Timescape, Alfedena, Chicago. 2007 Inland See, Western Michigan University. 2006 Gallery Henoch, NY. 2005 Tory Folliard, WI. Gallery Henoch, NY. 2004 Gallery Henoch, NY. Belloc Lowndes Fine Art. 2003 Gallery Henoch, NY. 2002 J. Cacciola Gallery, NY. Gallery Henoch, NY. 2001 Evanston Art Center, IL. Gallery Henoch, NY. Barat College, IL. 2000 Gallery Henoch, NY. Belloc Lowndes Fine Art, Chicago. 1999 Flowers East, London. 1998 Capstick-Dale Fine Art, NY. 1995 The Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. 1994 Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, London. 1993 Hollis Taggert Gallery, DC. Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, London. 1991 Smart Museum of Art