Ben Westley Clarke

"The Cock Tavern Paintings Part 2"

Private View: Thursday 11th May 6pm - 9pm
Exhibition: Friday 12th May - Saturday 13th May 12pm - 6pm

Chalton Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition 'The Cock Tavern Paintings Part 2' by local Artist Ben Westley Clarke. Last year Chalton Gallery presented veteran artist Richard Niman. This year sees young artist Ben Westley Clarke, who is interested in exploring social relationships in Somers Town. 

Run by landlady Sheila Gavigan, the longstanding Cock Tavern, an Irish pub in Somers Town, was the favoured pub of the late union leader Bob Crow and has long-served the working community of the neighbourhood. Possibly the last of its kind in London, the pub has been threatened with redevelopment. It has managed to resist gentrification despite the closure of several other local pubs.

In May 2014, Ben Westley Clarke embarked on a project to document the pub, its goings on and its characters. Spending days and evenings immersed within this environment over the past two years, Ben began by making drawings and portraits of the customers and later brought an easel and a camera to the pub.

The second and final part of the Cock Tavern project, an installation of oil and acrylic paintings, is being shown at Chalton Gallery.

Ben Westley Clarke is a painter based in Camden Town. Much of Ben’s recent work has been based on authentic, personally sourced material, whether from observation, memory or from photography. His artistic practise, which incorporates plein air and studio-based painting, is rooted in experimental drawing.

A basic human necessity, food is loaded with cultural, social and political implications with regard to its value, production, source and consumption. Food effectively dissolves most preconceived distinctions between nature and culture, production and consumption, morals and markets, family and society, the individual and the collective, body and mind.

Panela the New Gold of Colombia

Sugar was the gold of Europe 500 years ago. Royals and Nobles liked to display their rotten teeth due to exaggerated intake of sugar. It was a sign of power and opulence.This parallel between Panela and Gold is one of Omar’s visual and conceptual explorations.

Goddess in Metastasis, 2012-2015  

The protest of Colombian peasants against the government in 2013 did not end in blood or violence. When the armed police arrived to this town, they
were received with a traditional drink of
sugarcane (Aguapanela) to make clear that their

statement was political and not violent. Food was a balsam of peace in the middle of a conflict and these prints made of sugarcane ink reproduce those moments. The protest was not about clashing forces or raising turmoil, and it made the tabloids for all the wrong reasons. The whole outlook for the rural population in Colombia is not promising due to Free Trade Agreements with the United States and the EU. The Colombian peasants are left alone to battle corporate giants like Monsanto or to compete against countries with subsidised farming.The peasants raised their voices in protest peacefully through food.

Colombian Peasants Against the Government, 2013-2014

Panela is a staple in the Colombian cuisine, it is
used as a drink, spice and source of energy. It is a national treasure and it has been around for centuries. Coming from the first pressing of sugar cane, Panela has been involved in all the developments of the country from the slaves involved in its production at the beginning, to the industrialisation of the agricultural fields.

Lost Power in Their Hands, 2013

Nowadays, Panela shows a duality of values very similar in contradiction because inside of it there is clash of two primary needs of survival in this overpopulated society: The one of supplying a source of energy able to sustain our development versus the other, the more primary need of supplying food.

Panela, when valued as a biofuel, increases its value as a drink but it is threatened as such at the same time. It is related to power, inequality and poverty. Gold and Panela are both recipients of two extreme values, interlinked in this collection as two mirrors reflecting each other and creating images full of glimmer, bitterness, pain and sweetness.

The Demonstration

This event aims to show the versatility of Panela. It will be served as a cocktail, “tasted as a canapé”, and most important, the plasticity will be present in the works produced by the artist on the evening where Panela is the medium and the message alike. The panela ink, developed by the artist, will be imprinted on edible papers so the audience can eat the art works, a very peculiar experience, rarely found in a gallery!

A short video about how Panela is made will also be shown.

About Omar

Omar Castañeda has an MA in Fine Arts from Saint Martin’s Art College in London. He has lived in England for over a decade yet still remains close to his Colombian heritage.This is the reason why he keeps exploring subjects and materials related to his native South America. His main inspiration and resource when creating art is food. By using common elements, he dissects the past of towns and regions, tells personal stories and recreates armed conflicts, both current and past.