Ben Sack draws as a composer of universes

``Drawing is one of our earliest forms of expressions, we’ve had it since the caves and it has literally “marked” all of our endeavours wether it be religious, philosophical, aesthetic or scientific.``

Benjamin Sack’s work explores architecture as a flexible medium capable of expressing the unique space between realism and abstraction; where interpretation and our ability to create meaning is in flux. Within this space, Sack, furnished with pen and ink, encapsulates both the infinite and infinitesimal. His work invites the eye to explore drawings of the “big picture,” to gaze into a kaleidoscope of histories and to look further into the elemental world of lines and dots.

Numeroventi: What does drawing mean to you and what do you feel when you do it?

Ben: I’m half blind and have been since birth (I’ve no vision in my right eye). Drawing however restores to me a sense of a complete sight, beyond the mode of routine seeing. It’s allowed me to see the world in a more artful manner, more richly than many with a pair of perfectly good eyes. To draw and to teach the practice and history of drawing is immensely meaningful; to see people’s eyes widen—to see them seeing more— is an immensely joyful feeling. Drawing is one of our earliest forms of expressions, we’ve had it since the caves and it has literally “marked” all of our endeavours wether it be religious, philosophical, aesthetic or scientific. At one time it was even married to words: hieroglyphs. The alphabet in any language is but the draftsman’s line encoded with sound. In other instances, the art of drawing has been applied to penmanship to produce beautiful and poetic calligraphy, allowing words to both sing in our ears and dance in our eyes — inspiring even Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. Abstract dots drawn upon bars of lines give us the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. Many of the minds that shaped our world practiced it; Newton, Galileo, Churchill, Hitler and Eisenhower. Its a tool of immeasurable power that can help us visualize the world, conjure emotion and distill order from chaos. In essence, drawing is a very fulfilling activity, an art that stretches into pre-history and extends to beyond Galileo’s sketched observations of the moon and Newton’s musings on the motions of the stars and planets.

'I enjoy creating and eliciting a sense of space and scale from dots and lines, essentially abstract elements mirroring, in my mind, the elemental components of our universe; planks, quarks, atoms etc.'

N: How do you describe your experience in Florence and how has it influenced your work and creativity?

B: My time in Florence was immeasurably affirming, positive and profound. To live amongst masterpieces of such great beauty and understanding connects you immediately to a powerful, invisible force, a hidden frequency of creativity broadcasted only in Florence. This is the same energy the divine Michelangelo, Dante and Da Vinci fed off of and were inspired by. In so many words, it nourished my soul and still does. Florence is a place where the dead are still alive, like a living book, a refuge for the nostalgic soul.

Florence’s subtle gravity, the pull it exerts on a myriad of people/characters who’s thirst for history, revolution, art and architecture seeks nourishment, keeps the city alive — gives it a very dense international charm. The occasion for so many unique encounters with a myriad of far-flung individuals ignites new, delightful conversations trafficking in imaginative  and inspiring ideas. Living daily with these sorts of exchanges is quite an illuminating experience which I found energizing for creative drive.

N: Why do you draw cities? 

B: I’ve found architecture and mass conglomerations of architecture —cities— to be a wondrous, metaphorical medium to compose provocative perspectives out of; perspectives that explore a variety of urban contexts and relations to those who inhabit it. I enjoy creating and eliciting a sense of space and scale from dots and lines, essentially abstract elements mirroring, in my mind, the elemental components of our universe; planks, quarks, atoms etc. In this way, I find myself often likening my city drawings to musical compositions; how symphonies are born from a sequence of black dots (which are notionally encoded with a sound/tone) penned upon a grid of lines traced on paper — when translated from this abstraction, music is born and sense of great depth and space is conjured in the listener’s mind. Composing a drawing out of a thousand individual geometries for me is like scoring a visual symphony — inviting the eye to explore drawings of a “bigger picture”, to gaze into a kaleidoscope of histories and to look further into an elemental world. In this way, I feel a sense of kinship with old cartographers, the tessellation’s of islamic geometers, the night sky and the infinite.

N: Why did you want to come to Florence to create ? 

B: Florence to me is very much like an Escher drawing, its a picture within a picture within a picture, or alternatively, a city within a city within a city. The city’s historical legacy is laced with so much innovation that in turn beget more innovation, its like a visual fugue; a musical composition in which a short medley is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts. For instance, the creation and evolution of the art and science of Western perspective, a tool born in drawing, carried into architecture and evolving into a system for mapping the Earth and heavens — allowing for the creation of masterpieces, the erection of revolutionary architectural edifices and the discovery of the new world.

I wanted to come to Florence and create artwork in the city because its very much the Mecca of the conceptual basis of my work. To create cities within this city where perspective was born and perfected seemed apropos. In Florence, even the arrangement of the materials of it’s architectural masterpieces are works of art in and of themselves themselves : the spiralling herring bone tessellation of bricks that make-up the self-supporting cupola of Duomo is a work of engineering poetry. The dome is of course a metaphor for the sky above, the heavens. The spiralling brick construction the dome is made of echoes the structure of galaxies, again another metaphor for the heavens, hence a picture within a picture within a picture. To draw in the shadow of such a creation is/was fulfilling and energizing.