KAB Gallery artist Benjamin Tankard is well known for his bright contemporary artworks inspired by the Penguin Classics range of book, and everyone’s favourite board game Monopoly. I recently had the opportunity to ask Benjamin a few questions about his inspiration, creative process and painting style.
Benjamin Tankard was working in a bookstore while painting part-time when the idea of the Unpopular Penguin series first came to him. The minimalistic covers of these books worked themselves into his psyche, while the pop-art style which appealed to him enabled experimentation with layer upon layer of paint. This series of paintings quickly found a supportive following. Benjamin’s paintings are nostalgic and audiences immediately connect with their favourite page turner titles. Edmund Capon, the former Director of the Art Gallery of NSW, said of Benjamin’s Unpopular Penguin series: “An evocative imagining of the familiar Penguin Paperback… it was a painting we all liked very much for its rich texture, its sense of memory and it’s sort of nostalgic humour”.
Benjamin describes his work as “an intentional balance of order and chaos” and often paints in his studio for up to 12 hours a day. His pop art works are built up with many layers of acrylic paint. The initial design of each piece calls for a clean layout with straight lines, then once created he sets to work altering the work with chaotic brushwork, overpainting, drips, spatter, and intentional accidents. The result is an edgy appropriation featuring a noticeably rich depth and texture.
Monopoly is another focused subject matter. While the concept taps into his fond sense of memory and nostalgia around the boardgame, the introduction of strange unexpected text and images into both the foreground and background gives the works an entirely new exciting dimension. They represent the good and bad things that can surprise you in life with the roll of a dice. Benjamin happily admits to enjoying working on his Monopoly series works more than any of his other series – the humourous and surreal elements he includes into the works are a lot of fun to create.
Benjamin draws inspiration from many modern contemporary painters, most notably Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg who took ordinary imagery and elevated them by their methodology. He is also strongly inspired by words and imagery of all kinds, from the classic books that he paints, to playing cards, classic advertising, and street art.
KAB Gallery showcased several of Benjamin’s works earlier in the year, which quickly sold out. He is one of KAB Gallery’s featured artists during Comtempo at KAB Gallery month in August. Make sure you check out his Contempo works as soon as they are released – with such a huge demand for his works they definitely won’t be around for long!