March 9, 2011
The Art of Flight
David Bent is a leading aviation artist, most famous for his unique and inspirational collection of work, ‘The Art of Flight’. The highly talented artist took some time to talk to us here at Façonnable about inspirations, emotions, the American market and what advice he would give to young, aspiring artists.
Your work is certainly unique and captures the spirit of flight. What gave you your inspiration for your ‘Art Of Flight’ collection?
In 1999 a friend invited me to an air show. Like many of the thousands of people there, I started to take lots of photographs – but unlike everyone taking shots high up into the sky or three quarters on to aircraft surrounded by people, I decided to get up close and to take shots of the planes directly down their noses.
Returning to my studio, I began to create a new series of work based on what I had seen and gathered. At the time, I had been experimenting with photo collages based on my travels – doubling, turning and juxtaposing my archive of photographs. I started to experiment, doing the same with these new pictures from the air show.
Robotic creatures began to organically appear as I did this – and these “Aerobots” were the first pieces in my ‘Art of Flight’ collection.
Whenever possible, I like to exhibit my work back at the source of inspiration, so the following year, I exhibited these and some other new pieces back at the same air show. I was overwhelmed by the immediate and positive response to my work and by the number of spontaneous invitations that I received.
Opportunities to get up close to the F117 Nighthawk Stealth fighter, the Avro Vulcan XH558 in bits in its hangar and to spend time as Artist in Residence with the Red Arrows RAF Aerobatics team continued to inspire me to create more work and to develop my collection further.
I have always been very interested in world affairs and social issues and it seems to me that aircraft and aviation have a profound influence in the world around us. This continues to intrigue and inspire me.
Your art is extremely thought provoking, when you create your images, are there particular emotions you strive to create, or do you prefer your audience to come to their own conclusions about the meaning behind the pictures?
When I create new work, my aim is for it to be clever, thought provoking and profound. I like the idea of people taking time to “look then look again – the more you look the more you’ll see.”
Do you think it is your subject, your love and appreciation of aviation, that makes you stand out from your contemporaries, as your focus is so unique and unrivalled?
My Dad was an aviation enthusiast and as a child I spent many happy days chasing his brilliant model airplanes across the fields of southern England.
I joined the Air Cadets at school and flew Chipmunks over the white cliffs of Dover – so my love and appreciation of aviation goes way back. I didn’t set out with any kind of plan, I just became increasingly fascinated by the subject and the work evolved over time.
Someone described me as leading a new movement in modern aviation art - I like to think that maybe I can act as a bridge between the traditional and the modern pushing the subject forward and hopefully encouraging a younger generation to use new technologies as art forms to push it even further into the future.
You are exhibiting your work in the USA this year. Was it difficult to break into the US market? Does your audience in the US appreciate your work in similar ways to your UK audience?
One of the things that surprised me from an early stage of showing my ‘Art of Flight’ collection was the breadth of its appeal. I didn’t really think about it, but each time I exhibited, the response confirmed that that much of my work appears to transcend barriers of age, sex and nationality.
It’s great to know that my work has been bought by people all round the world.
In 2010, Sarah Black (Managing Editor of Kurzweil AI News) in San Francisco made contact as she had seen my work on a blog. This lead to the Kurzweil AI team featuring my work as a slide show on their website, which has helped in assisting to build support and interest in the USA.
Can you let us know the dates and locations of your exhibitions in the USA this year?
I will be exhibiting the ‘Art of Flight’ collection in the USA & UAE 2011/2012 – dates & location to be confirmed.
What was your inspiration for your latest piece of work ‘Love Hearts’?
In 2007, I was honored to be invited to collaborate with the Red Arrows and have created a collection of work based on time spent with the team both in the UK & training in Cyprus.
This is an informal and ongoing positive relationship and each year I try to create a new major piece of work based on the team.
For 2010 I came up with the idea of ‘Love Hearts’. The Heart is one of the Red Arrows most iconic and much loved aerobatic statements. I wanted to take the viewer into the cockpit of a Red Arrows Hawk jet and marry this with the sentiment felt when experiencing this particular move.
What advice do you give any young, aspiring artists?
The best advice that I could give to any young, aspiring artists is “don’t give up!”