As mentioned in a previous post, the heavy metal quilting sensation that is Ben Venom has an exhibition called All This Mayhem at MAC in Birmingham that runs until early September.
I took the opportunity to check it out and had the pleasure of chatting with the man himself while I was there. It was an epic experience.
Before I explore other works in the exhibition let’s take a moment to look at See You On The Other Side, the largest piece in the show. At 12 feet by 14 feet it is a beast of a piece, and Ben admitted that the size of it means that it rarely gets a showing because most galleries lack the space to hang it. Thankfully the double height ceilings in the gallery space at MAC provided ample space for this piece to hang in all it’s glory.
The show combines Ben’s large scale quilts with some of his jacket work, and his now-trademark design aesthetic of heavy metal piece work remains throughout. If you’ve not seen his work before, the principle of taking heavy metal t-shirts and making quilts from them has been truly explored in Ben’s body of work.
We have featured Ben Venom before on the site and you can get a sense of how his rock star approach to the patchwork quilt has evolved over time, but the joy of seeing his work up close is in the details. There are so many elements to the pieces and the construction is even more impressive when you realise that he doesn’t use a long arm machine, he just gets down with the designs at his studio desk on a standard sewing machine. There’s so much to absorb – whether it’s the clever use of specific band t-shirts to hit particular colour points in his designs…
…or the variety in machine embroidered outline that create extra drama and impact when seen from afar, there’s a lot to take in with each piece. As with many quilt artists, the internet really doesn’t do justice to these pieces, and the sheer variety of elements in some of the larger works is mindboggling. I asked Ben if he kept track of which bands were in which quilts and despite his best intentions, it’s too big a task to keep hold of – one for future textile historians I think!
Some of the pieces on show were made with the exhibition in mind and Ben’s personal passion for Premier League football combines nicely with the retro flavours of the New Wave of Heavy Metal in pieces like Up The Irons. This combo of rock and sports is not limited to football t-shirts however and it’s great to see Ben push past the quilt tradition to amp up other garments.
Ben Venom’s exhibition – All This Mayhem – is part of the Home of Metal exhibition at MAC, and if you’re a fan of rock or heavy metal music, it really is worth a look. What’s great about Ben’s show is that it appeals to textile artists as well, so it makes for a great overlap between two often contrasting personal pleasures. If you’re a rocker, why not bring your granny out with you – she can buy the cake in the mighty fine MAC cafe!
There’s plenty to enjoy and it really is exciting to see Ben Venom’s work for real and enjoy the intensity of it all. Get to Birmingham to see it if you can!