Benjamin Artola’s paintings present a world without humans

Graphic, but also obscure, Benjamin’s paintings use rigid shapes to show seasonal change, like lines on a sundial.

20 May 2024

There is something unique in how Benjamin Artola paints. Often, he’ll use paint to capture part of an animation he has playing in his mind, “a bit like a screenshot,” he says. In this way, Benjamin likes to view his works as part of a story that is in motion. In the centre of each, the “main character,” as he puts it, is the sun, which often appears in multiple configurations per artwork, making it easy to imagine how this motion would behave, setting and rising.

This overlap of painting and motion design seems less unusual when you consider Artola’s background. He worked as a multidisciplinary creative for about a decade, moving between art direction, scenography and, you guessed it, animation. “Painting came later,” he tells us. “I felt the need to return to a form of purity in colours and patterns.” Benjamin almost never depicts humans in his paintings, instead he set out to create a bridge between his creative practice and his daily life, contemplating rivers, mountains and the ocean.

There is also the inspiration of his very immediate surroundings. “Here in the Basque Country, there is a very marked folkloric universe, yet it will always remain a mystery, a beauty so unique to express and represent,” he says. Based in Bidart, in the Northern Basque Country, Benjamin views his practice as impossible to untangle from his life in the region. He often muses on images from childhood, like a progression of floats he saw for a Bixintxo festival, which members of his family built using crepe flowers and paint.

Despite these very specific personal inputs, Benjamin tries to craft a universal output with his paintings. While a body of water in his work might reference a specific location, like Bidarrai, “where I learned to fly fish with my brother and father when I was little”, he hopes to offer these memories up to others on neutral ground. The goal is always to “soothe a mind and focus it on the essential,” he says.

Even the motion part of Benjamin’s work – that rising and setting of the central sun – can function as a tool for sophrology, allowing the viewer to focus on their breathing, in and out.


Benjamin Artola: Argiaren formak/ Forms of Light (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)


Benjamin Artola: Mukuru/Overflow (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)


Benjamin Artola: Ilunabarrak/Sunsets (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)


Benjamin Artola: Gauko saioa/ Night Session (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)


Benjamin Artola: Podium (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)


Benjamin Artola: Noblia (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)


Benjamin Artola: Laino/ The Mist (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)


Benjamin Artola: Negua/ Winter (Copyright © Benjamin Artola)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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