The Art of Advertising: Ben Campbell
In the first of a new series, Ben Campbell, partner at Cut+Run London, reveals his artistic inspirations.
Editor Ben Campbell gets to grips with our new, on-going feature by citing two artists who he sees as inspirations to his work and how those artists' approach to their own work has informed his own role.
Caravaggio: The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew [below]
When I talk about Caravaggio, I’m really talking about his large-scale work; grand, action-packed paintings, like The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. The drama in Caravaggio’s work is unparalleled, there’s a kind of intensity and violence to it that I’m drawn to. The great scenes he painted have a narrative running through them, all taking place in one frame. You can move your eyes around the painting and watch the narrative unfold – it’s incredible storytelling.
Caravaggio uses many storytelling techniques that we use in filmmaking today. Looking at the painting, it’s interesting to see where the eyes look, who’s looking at whom. You do that when you’re cutting, you use eyes to send a viewer from one subject to another. Just look at final standoff at the end of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – it’s all about the eyes.
Sometimes I prefer something that has the least amount of cuts possible and Caravaggio’s work evokes a similar feeling.
However, Caravaggio’s great scenes are almost like cinematic wide shots, with little or no cuts. In film, wide shots are always the longest takes, as there’s so much to take in. Sometimes I prefer something that has the least amount of cuts possible and Caravaggio’s work evokes a similar feeling.
In the absence of cuts, he uses light the way a filmmaker uses focus, telling the viewer what to do within a large frame. Light and colour guides the viewer, tells us to “stop looking at that, you’ve had a enough – now look at this.”
Ralph Steadman: Selections from Dog's Bodies [below]
Steadman and Caravaggio are interesting artists to juxtapose, and there are obvious similarities between the two. They’re both attention grabbing, they’re both powerful and both inspire expletives.
…but Steadman's work is lively, excited and kinetic in its own way. Blotches, scribbles and marks. It’s the opposite of kitch; as editors, what we do generally is take out the shit and leave a shiny, beautiful finished product. Steadman keeps the shit in the picture and does it all with a pencil or a pen. His work is full of scratches and inkblots, almost like punctuation points – exclamation marks in particular. It’s like it’s got a soundtrack to it.
As editors, what we do generally is take out the shit and leave a shiny, beautiful finished product. Steadman keeps the shit involved.
With Steadman you get everything in one go – the same way you would with a close-up or a one character shot, you’re getting a lot of information in a very short space of time. It’s like takeaway – it’s fast food. You can take a quick look and move on to the next one.
I’ve always loved his little illustrative book Dog’s Bodies. You flip through that book quite quickly, probably getting through the entire thing in the amount of time you’d need to take in a whole Caravaggio. Steadman gives you quick cuts – Caravaggio gives you a grand one-shotter. Steadman is Lock Stock, Caravaggio is Russian Ark.