For three days last week, I learned to speak Ballenesque. Taking a workshop with Roger Ballen is like learning a new visual language. I went to his workshop because I wanted to understand how his mind works. How does it give birth to such images. Well, no one (including Roger) really understand this, but after hearing him talk about his work a few threads emerged.
"I am a formalist" he said at the beginning of the first day, and indeed he is. Form is at the base of each one of his images. Lines and shapes are echoed, each squiggle has an aesthetic reason. Form creates meaning rather than the other way around.
The prominence of background. Starting with wires and textures on the wall, moving on to drawings (created by him or others) and ending up with background becoming foreground in his latest series, Ballan's work has an unusual emphasis on the background. An interesting mirroring of the psychological tone of his work.
Like the background, drawing becomes more and more important in his work, unlike people that slowly disappear.
More than anything, he believes in constant, disciplined work. Each one of his projects took years to complete. Day after day after day after day of taking pictures would eventually result in new ideas. Tenacity, patience. No shortcuts. Slowly creating a new language: Ballenesque.