A Patch of Paint

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London family photographer Ben Heasman thinks over adventures in sculpture as a student

As a sculpture student, I used to visit the Cast Courts in the V&A museum. A massive den of monuments from all over the continent. Each one is made of plaster, because each one is a copy: a life-sized piece of Europe. There is something almost photographic about them – but for their ‘heaviness’. And, as facsimiles, their weight seems weirdly excessive. Almost silly. I loved these objects. I loved their ‘leftover’ nature. Like snowmen in a green field.

I made an artwork about them. And that should have been that.

But I also used to check on another object there. A massive patch of peeling paint. High up, equally big and equally heavy. ‘Astronomically’ heavy. Heavy because a gram was too heavy and would force its fragile shape, sooner or later, down to earth. And, as a future photographer, I loved this patch of paint. I’m sure it had something of the photograph about it too. The way it decided to just god-damn-happen. I loved the daring of it.

I stopped visiting the Cast Courts. I forgot about the plaster monuments, but I didn’t stop thinking about the paint. It sounds silly, but it’s been like an invisible friend. A collaborator. And I think I took some of its ambition for myself. To find the spontaneous life of things. The real moments that dare to happen. And make them last.

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