It was in the midst of Australia’s financial crisis back in 2008 that artist Benedict dos Remedios decided to make the move from Sydney to New York in search of new beginnings.

With a degree in fine arts from Australia’s National Art School and a collection of work already under his belt, dos Remedios was excited to begin the next chapter of his life. That isn’t to say he wanted to disconnect with his past, but rather to begin exploring a new body of work inspired by the rush of the metropolis.

New York, the home of artists such as de Kooning and Pollock, began to inspire dos Remedios with visions of abstract paintings. As he explains, “I kind of caught up with the Abstract Expressionists when I moved to New York. In Australia, you don’t really learn a lot about that. I went to a very traditional university and we only made it up to Picasso, so there was still a lot for me to learn.”

This new education would go on to inform the work he is making today. In a recent series of paintings titled “Big Waves,” the artist takes old images of Japanese tsunamis, digitally reshapes them, and then paints over the top with layers of watercolor and gouache. The result is a collection of big waves that pay homage to his love of surfing, but more importantly to his deep connection with nature. He explains, “For me, it’s about using nature as a reference because we’re so connected—this has always been a big influence on my work.”

Amidst the daily hum and buzz of city life, dos Remedios has somewhat ironically returned to one of the things he loves most—surfing. The fact that he has created these pieces whilst living in the city demonstrates his nostalgia for the surfing life, but also highlights his desire to make the sport more accessible. “I started to think that maybe people in New York could relate to surfing beyond its association with the 1970’s hippie movement in California,” he explains.

At the same time, dos Remedios doesn’t want to be known exclusively as a surf artist. “I don’t just want to tap into surf culture,” he says. “I think the work is beyond that.” This unwillingness to be cornered into one market, dos Remedios explains, is about his desire to talk about nature, and the changes that are happening on our planet: “I think everything I do will always come back to the power of nature, especially with the impact of global warming.”

Running alongside his “Big Waves” series, dos Remedios has also recently created related wax paintings that offer a more detailed perspective of the larger waves. To create these smaller works, he applies surf wax over a watercolor base and finishes with a layer of spray paint. These paintings, he says, show his “desire to find the balance between abstraction and the subjective, as well as texture and subcultural knowledge.” When positioned next to one another, the viewer is able to experience the power of the wave, its natural beauty witnessed both from afar and close-up.

The humbling presence of nature exists throughout dos Remedios’ latest works, reminding us, whether surfers or not, that it is a force to be respected. In a final nod to his love of both the surf and the city, he suggests, “If we’re not living within nature, then we should at least have it on our walls as a reminder of what’s important.”

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Benedict dos Remedios, 'Big Wave #13,' 2014.
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