Multi-talented British artist Ben Long has been making exquisite illustrations on the dusty rear doors of commercial trucks since the early 2000s. The 35-year-old uses only one finger to ‘scribe into the layer of dirt built-up from exhaust emissions’.
He calls the project ‘The Great Travelling Art Exhibition’, which is an ongoing series of his mobile canvases traveling all over the UK. Long, who studied at the Camberwell College of Art and Design in London, describes the project as an expansion of the ‘daubing and crude slogans that commonly adorn commercial freight vehicles’.
The idea for the drawings came to him during his early days as an artist, when he had little financial backing. By using dusty trucks as his canvas, he was able to express his creativity without a studio or a gallery. Although he has now advanced in his art career, Long continues to draw on greight vehicles, because it helps him appeal to people who don’t relate to the kind of contemporary art that is generally displayed in museums and galleries.
Long chooses the subjects of his van drawings carefully, based on mass appeal and how it is perceived as a cultural motif. His drawings mostly reflect the kind of art that is found in many UK households.
“By denoting the freight vehicle as a moving canvas, Long blurs the distinction between the two and three dimensional medium, the artwork behaving simultaneously as both image and object,” Long’s website explains. “The Great Travelling Art Exhibition successfully elevates a mundane and commonplace aspect of daily life to the realm of iconic public artwork.”
Interestingly, although his dust drawings are clearly not permanent, if the drivers don’t wash their trucks, they last for as long as six months.Ben believes that it is this ‘impermanence and vulnerability that give the free-roaming drawings their point of interest and contemporary relevance’.
Photos: Ben Long