Scaffold art sends Ben up the pole

Ben sits astride his scaffolding dog.
Ben sits astride his scaffolding dog.

A LANCASTER artist inspired by his teenage years spent working on a building site has created his own menagerie of animals made entirely of scaffolding.

Ben Long, 34, spent months building the larger-than-life dog, stag and horse out of metal poles and screws using scaffolding techniques learned from a scaffolder he found in the Yellow Pages.

The sculptures, which measure up to 30ft high, each took three weeks to build, and a further six months to perfect.

“My father is a construction site manager and when I was a teenager, he used to employ me as a general labourer during academic holidays,” said Ben, 34.

“I worked on sites in Lancaster, Morecambe, Blackpool and Keswick and I suppose it was from these experiences that I decided to find ways of making art that engaged and challenged a broad demographic of people.

“In particular, I was interested in reaching those who did not actively visit art galleries, or did not have an understanding of art history.

“Though I’d worked on building sites in the past, I’d never tried scaffolding at any point before I’d had the idea to make these sculptures.

“I started by learning the basics in 2002 from an old scaffolder guy in Battersea.

“I picked his company at random from the Yellow Pages.

“He must have though I was crazy, but he was never the less very encouraging and helped solve enough of the main issues to enable me to give it a go and be ambitious.”

Born in Lancaster, Ben grew up in Brookhouse and attended Our Lady’s High School, later studying foundation art and design at the Adult College, Lancaster.

After moving to London in 1998, he studied graphic design at Camberwell College of Art, graduating with a first-class BA Hons in 2001.

Ben has exhibited internationally, and his work forms part of major public and private collections in New York.

In 2009, he was shortlisted for the £500,000 Artists Taking The Lead commission for the North West of England, which forms part of the Cultural Olympiad.

“My aim, like many artists of the past decade, has been to make art that can exist independently of the gallery and museum system,” Ben said.

“Taking art out of the gallery and into the street has been a big step, because it has provided a way of engaging a broader census of people, while challenging the conventions of modern life.”

See the Lancaster Guardian (22-03-12) for full story.