Ben Russell on The Cactus House, his love of greenery and sculpting cacti

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

Cacti and succulents are definitely having a moment. Whether it's something to do with the current Hockney retrospective, or we're just in love with LA, all things botanical are increasingly spilling into the art world. For sculptor Ben Russell, he's decided to create The Cactus House, an exhibition at Mayfair's Hignell Gallery of contemporary sculpture inspired by the "bold organic forms of cacti".

Coinciding with this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the event juxtaposes Ben's beautifully carved stone art pieces with a verdant display of plants created by botanical designers, Conservatory Archives. We recently interviewed Ben via our online magazine Creative Boom. Here's a snippet of what we discussed.

Why the fascination with cacti?

"I love organic form and just find them really interesting. They are sculptures in themselves, like little explosions of life in a pot! I have a bit of a habit of imagining everyday things made in stone so got a bit over excited when that idea came into my head."

Succulents and cacti definitely seem to be en vogue. Why do you think that is?

"Nature in general seems to be having a moment! Many of us don't get to spend nearly enough time in green surroundings, so perhaps we are trying to bring the outside world into our homes to reclaim a bit of that space. I guess the low maintenance nature of cacti and succulents also has its appeal and they do look stunning with their many colours, forms, shapes and sizes."

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

The Cactus House is coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Was there added pressure working with such a heritage brand?

"It's great to be showcasing my work at the same time as this brilliant established moment in the year for the floristry, gardening and landscaping community. I’m looking forward to showcasing my work at a time when people really start to look at nature and all things green."

How will you choose how to place your sculptures amongst the greenery – is there a science to it?

"Like the sculptures, I plan to let this happen quite organically. We are having some beautiful plants lent to the gallery by Conservatory Archives so we will all work together to create a beautiful greenhouse vibe to really show off the sculptures."

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

Ben Russell, Cactus House, Alabaster, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Tanya Dolver

Finally, what's next in the pipeline?

"As I am currently halfway through my cacti pieces I will be focusing on those for a little while longer. In the pipeline I have stonework to produce for a shopfront on Portobello Road before long.

"Also some interesting large scale carved pieces to make for a couple of more traditional heritage jobs in the near future. In terms of my own work I am looking forward to being immersed in the greenery that makes up the county of Dorset and seeing what I am inspired to make. I have ideas for a series of sculptures with a darker vibe but am keeping quiet on that for now."

The Cactus House will go on display at Mayfair's Hignell Gallery from 11 May until 3 July. To find out more about Ben, visit benrussell.co.uk or follow him on Instagram @dorsetstonecarver.

Katy Cowan

Manchester, England,