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We do love that lockdown is over and we are free to go forth and immerse ourselves in some fine art. First stop on our list is Benedict Dos Remedios’ giant orchids that can be seen flowering at Chalk Horse gallery in Sydney. We caught up with Ben to talk all things nature and life and all that.

How would you describe your painting genre?

"I would say my painting genre is a modern abstracted take on traditional botanical paintings."

Nature under the dos Remedios microscope… what inspired this journey through the world of orchids?

"I love studying orchids. I painted orchids for my first ever solo exhibition at The Knot Gallery in Surry hills in 2004. That was a series I created in Barcelona whilst I was living there early on in the 2000’s. Initially I chose it as a subject matter as I had noticed the absence of Asian culture in Spain whilst living in Barcelona. I guess the orchids that I painted in Barcelona were symbolic of “home" in Australia. My mum loved orchids and we constantly had planted orchids in our living room, leading me to name one of my works in this exhibition 'Mum’s kitchen top orchid'."

Did the journey begin in NYC or when you returned to Sydney?

"I started this series in New York back when we were still living there, before Covid hit. We spent 10 years in New York. I worked on a lot of different things during my time in New York - from Creative Consultancy to Photography to owing restaurants. I always had a studio for my art and exhibited. It helped keep me sane."

How important is geography to your work?

"I love to travel, but I also love a sense of “home". My dad was a scientist and taught at various different universities around the world while we were growing up, so I think my love for travel stems from our childhood where we lived in the UK, America and Spain. Even though we travelled a lot we always maintained a family home in Paddington, having this one place to return to, even when I lived in New York City with my wife, has always been important to me."

How does your process begin? With sketches…? please share

"The composition of my paintings is usually inspired by "found” images online. The “explore” page on Instagram has actually been a helpful tool to researching orchids and various other botanicas. It’s interesting how the algorithm works, scrolling has led my “explore” page to look like a bunch of different orchids, surrounded by 1980s skate decks, and as of late - lots of chihuahuas, as we are dreaming of getting a dog to add to our chaotic family of five."

What did you learn from painting this body of work?

"I've been studying a lot about the deceptive abilities of an orchid, in the way that they deceive insects to help pollinate their flowers. Hence the name of the show “CATFISHED”. This concept of trickery inspired me to play with the scale of the orchid, abstracting the orchid by zooming into a microscopic proportion to abstract it, to trick the eye of the viewer."

Favourite orchid?

"Like my mum says about her 10 grandchildren... the favorite is always the one sitting right in front of me."

Orchid anecdotes?!

"Fun fact. The word 'orchid' comes from the Greek word for testicle 'o’rkhis'."

Soundtrack to your exhibition?

'Bjork's Biophilia."

What's next? 

"More orchids. I’m moving into painting them on an even bigger scale. I'm also exploring native Australian flora for an upcoming series. Apart from my art, hopefully this summer will be filled with travel. We have a little 1970s caravan called 'Sweetie' that we are excited to take back on the road… Now that the 5km radius has lifted I can’t wait to get back in the water and go surfing."

Catfished at Chalk Horse is on from October 13 – Nov 14, 2021.

Photographs by James Tolich.