Ben Cove in SPACE
11 Jul 2023 – 21 Feb 2024
Free & open to all
SPACE Ilford

Ben’s work sings with a joy of colour and form whilst playing with depth and surface

Launch event: Tuesday 11 July 2023, 4 – 7.30pm
Gallery open: Wed 11am – 5pm; Sat 11am – 3pm and by appointment
Holiday closing: the gallery will be closed on Wed 13 Dec and from 21 Dec 2023 until 9 Jan 2024. We reopen on Wed 10 Jan 2024.

Ben Cove was a much-loved member of our artist community for 10 years, based at The Triangle studios in Hackney from 2006 until his untimely death in 2016. We are delighted to present a new solo exhibition of his work, co-curated by Karen Davies, Head of Artist Development at SPACE, and Melanie Cove, Ben’s sister, which will investigate aspects of Ben’s practice that have never been seen previously.

We are especially pleased to announce that we will be showing the large installation piece known as Biker Gang Hideout (2016) for the first time since it was posthumously realised by Melanie and the team at Aspex Portsmouth in the 2016 solo show, Double Dutch.

During the decade at SPACE, Ben’s work became increasingly modular as he explored the nature of painting and the object by installing paintings within sculptures and large found images. These works investigate ideas of the constructed world, with reference to a broad range of influences, including 20th century modern architecture, art, design, museology and furniture, which Ben referred to as looking at “out of the corner of my eye”.

Melanie says of her brother’s work: “Ben was an experimental artist who explored video, installation, sculpture and drawing but could not resist returning again and again to paint. His inquisitive nature pushed him to re-approach painting at different points in his career, bringing an exciting freshness to his practice. His work sings with a joy of colour and form whilst playing with depth and surface. The elegance of the final paintings, however, conceals radical reworking which took confidence, which Ben reveals in the time-lapse films he made of the paintings’ evolution. This for me sums up my brother, as well as his work; calm and composed on the surface but continually striving to be remade better.”

The activity that takes place behind the closed doors of artists’ studios is often a closely guarded secret. The privacy needed to create, to work uninterrupted, to be alone with materials for periods of time, is precious to many artists. Karen Davies was inspired by Ben’s dedication to showing up at the studio every day, his commitment to making, failing and making again. Including the series Regular Work (2008), a series of paintings that were completed in a day, was essential in an exhibition that celebrates the artist’s relationship to his studio. 

Karen says: “These paintings are about making something every day to move your practice forward. It’s a reason why Ben’s output was so prolific, and why he was such an important part of the SPACE community – he turned up and he engaged.” Ben was respected amongst his community at SPACE for his sharp intellect and keen wit. “Many of our studio artists hold happy memories of talking with Ben over a cuppa in his studio.” 

We are grateful to be able to show several previously unseen works on paper and an early film from 2003, Left to My Own Devices, which was filmed and edited by Ben during his residency at Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield. This is a rare opportunity to see Ben at work, through his own eyes, as he grapples with extraordinarily large-scale work. This interrogation of process was the bedrock of Ben’s practice and makes this exhibition a must-see for anyone interested in how artists work in their studio.

About Ben Cove  

Born in 1974, Ben Cove grew up in Manchester and was based in London. He graduated from Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2008 with an MFA having previously completed undergraduate degrees in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University in 2001 and Architecture at The University of Nottingham in 1995. 

Ben exhibited extensively and internationally. Solo exhibitions include Modern Language at Peter von Kant, London (2015), Vernacular Hangover at Acme Project Space, London (2013), Practical Mechanics at Cell Project Space (2006), London and New Plastic Universal at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2004). Since 2016, his work has been posthumously exhibited a number of times, including Double Dutch, a solo presentation at Aspex Portsmouth and selection for the John Moores Painting Prize in 2016. 

Ben was the recipient of a number of awards, including the Goldsmiths Warden’s MFA Purchase Award, several Arts Council Awards for Artists and an Acme Studio’s bursary as part of a four-year live/work residency at the Fire Station in Bow, London. In addition to studio work and residencies, he has taught and given lectures at various universities across the UK. 


Ben Cove in SPACE is co-curated by Karen Davies, Head of Artist Development at SPACE, and Melanie Cove.

Supported by Arts Council England.