Ben Rowe grew up fascinated by the aesthetics of science fiction film and television props from the 1980s and 1990s. Mechanical, robotic and part-organic objects, sometimes functional but always mysterious, inform the sculptural works he continues to produce. Initially made from bare MDF, the artist now uses black Valchromat, another wood fibre product, within his works. Rowe utilises the particularities of the material to sculpt forms that recall talismanic objects from an unknown, perhaps dystopian, future.
‘Body Clock (Sanctuary Doesn’t Exist)’ (2013), for instance, is reminiscent of both a tool part for cutting and of the articulated legs of a rare spider or scorpion. Like many of Rowe’s works, it is an unsettling hybrid assembled from a variety of found and imagined sources and mis-remembered objects. ‘Unobtainable Power’ (2015), made from plastic tubing, black Valchromat and treated with satin varnish, is a work with similarly articulated limbs, this time recalling the natural form of a tightly-closed flower bud. These are works that are impossible to pin point in time or space. They are coded and secretive objects.
All of Rowe’s sculptures are highly detailed and labour intensive. A single piece can take up to six months to painstakingly construct from scratch. Exactitude can also be found in the symmetry inherent to the sculptures. Individual pieces are measured out, cut and glued with hand and machine tools – there are no digital technologies involved in the design or production of the works. His low-fi methodology is significant not only in reference to the filmic props but also to the final form of the sculpture, where details of the construction can be discerned through Rowe’s craftsmanship. The works are only part-planned in the artist’s mind, often with very few drawings or plans made beforehand. This allows each sculpture to develop more freely, every one emerging through the processes of their own making.