Benjamin Shine is a British artist who specialises in using the folds of fabric to create detailed human figures and faces. We’ve featured some of his incredible celebrity fabric portraits in the past, but his latest series of artworks is even more impressive.
Called The Dance, Shine’s latest exhibit is on display at the Canberra Centre in Australia. It consists of two realistic human faces – one male and one female – constructed from over 2,000 meters of tulle. Surrounding the two faces are a series of dancing figures, silhouetted within the flowing fabric.
At first glance, the tulle sheets in Shine’s work seem haphazardly suspended, but he actually spent two-and-a-half months painstakingly folding, pleating, ironing and hand-sewing the netted fabric. He kept at it until each lifelike feature emerged out of the clouds of pink, purple, and blue. He later created contrasts using backlight, to highlight intricate details.
“When you pick up a piece of tulle, it’s light, it’s delicate, it’s fragile, it’s feminine,” Shine said about the process, during a recent interview. “The idea is to play off those qualities, to see where they can take the medium. It’s got to be as effortless as a piece of tulle floating through the air that has just happened to form this image.”
“This series of tulle works is trying to capture the energy of the dance,” he added. “Through the colors combining and conveying together, that energy is manifested momentarily. It’s this idea that through creativity, we are formed, and then we go on to create things, and dance represents that.”
The Canberra Centre apparently approached Shine for a collaboration around a fashion theme. “I began playing around with the idea of dancers because it was something I’d been working on, and I wanted to use the tulle because it links to dance and ballet,” Shine said. “So I wanted to get some sort of better silhouettes than just fashion models – because there’s more going on with dancers, there’s far more shapes, so that’s what I wanted to do.”
Although he’s been working with tulle for years, The Dance is the first project in which Shine has used more than two colors. “And it’s the first time they’ve been suspended from the ceiling as three-dimensional pieces that are like sculptures, and it’s the first time I’ve used lighting to back light them so it’s entirely new territory,” he explained.
Another challenge was to transport the artworks all the way from his studio in O’Malley to the Canberra Centre. “I made half of it in the studio and then filled everything in once they arrived. There’s a special rigging system – it was unbelievable what we designed for it,” he told Canberra Times.
“There’s a 11-meter hole in the ceiling and each of the figures is in a ceiling panel of its own which was hanging in my studio on a special rig which brought into here in a crate. And we lifted it out and into the ceiling, we had to slide it from one end to the other. It was a real logistical thing to work out how to do it.”
Shine, who currently works out of Canberra, has collaborated with several big brands in the past – including Google, Coca-Cola, MTV, and Givenchy. He plans to move to New York next year, where he has a number of new projects lined up.