Banana Split: Catching up with Benji Heinke

In the lead up to Banana Split, our first RIPE exhibition of the season, we’ve continued to catch up with each of the artists involved to find out more about their practice and their latest work.

This week, we spoke to Benji Heinke, who graduated from the Fine Art Degree at WSA in 2017. Benji’s work is a distillation of the contemporary everyday, filtered through an autobiographical lens. Informed by digital manipulation and collage, his paintings incorporate original and appropriated imagery ranging from photographs and pattern designs to art history. The utilisation of digital technology in the construction of his paintings addresses the position of the medium in the 21st century, in addition to reflecting the seemingly blurred line between fact and fiction in today’s internet saturated world.

Last summer you exhibited as part of Ripe Bananas at the Alfred Arcade, what did you exhibit and how was that experience for you?
I showed a series of new paintings called ‘Shoes’. This was my re-entry into painting, after a year-long absence since graduating. I wanted to get the series completed by the opening but perhaps that was a little ambitious due to time constraints, so I ended up exhibiting most of the works in progress and then completed them over the duration of the project. It was all a great springboard for more painting. After graduating I felt a bit dissatisfied with it all and had my mind focused elsewhere. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to continue making work, so being involved in Ripe Bananas allowed me to rebuild my practice as something brand new.

What has the last year (or last few years) been like since you graduated from University?
Initially it was a bit of a shock, having to get a job etc. but it soon settled. After graduating I also took a conscious decision to stop painting and focus on my music, resulting in an album which was released last summer.

What have you seen in that last year that’s inspired you?
A few months ago, I went to Condo in London and got to see some brilliant paintings by Dickon Drury and Tom Howse. I also went to Paris for the first time and saw so much great work – the Pompidou was a particular highlight.

What have you been working on lately what are you likely to exhibit in Banana Split?
Since the new year I’ve been primarily working on one large painting, amongst other things. This piece is definitely the centre of the work I’m putting into the show and is a response to ‘Whaam!’ by Roy Lichtenstein. I was interested in how Lichtenstein purposefully split the image into two separate halves – the ‘action’ and ‘consequence’ of what’s depicted and the compositional loop between the two. The original image in my painting is based on a photo that I took and then digitally manipulated and collaged to expand the composition. The work is in two halves: the more representational figurative half and the explosion of abstract patterning, unified to create an extended image.

Do you have any projects lined up or anything else that you’ll be working on post Banana Split?
I have been offered a residency at The Hidden Wardrobe from ‘a space’ arts, which I’m very excited about. I’ve got a few ideas in terms of direction for my painting, so I’m looking forward to putting them into practice.