First published: Winter 1997/98
It's nightfall in late summer in Ben Wilson's North London garden, and you might be forgiven for thinking that his is an idyllic existence. He has carved out a magical place, where giant wild flowers flow over hidden seats and arbours, a flagstone path winds through to his workshop and then on to the playhouse he is building for his daughter Chloe. All this blends into a peaceful, intimate harmony. A recent edition of a glossy magazine portrayed it as such, in one of those Ben-Wilson-invites-us-into-his-lovely-home style interviews.
He has not forgiven them. Because behind the beautifully carved wood lies another agenda, which he now struggles to put across. He is driven by the battle to protect his own mental and physical space from those who would categorise him out of his individuality. 'I'm an outsider artist, a twentieth century artist, an environmental artist, a whatever artist,' he complains. 'Every time someone does something, it has to be categorised and put into relation to something else.' He is apologetic for his inability to produce snappy soundbites to sum up these feelings, but I'm glad: this is a heartfelt, uncontainable outburst.