Ben Gallagher inspired by old trade

ROOFTOP: Ben Gallagher is currently part of a group exhibition titled Drawn Out.
ROOFTOP: Ben Gallagher is currently part of a group exhibition titled Drawn Out.

Benjamin Gallagher began studying architecture at the University of Newcastle 20 years ago. 

It was one of his teachers who encouraged him to pursue his talent for industrial design, rather than architecture.  

“I was two years in … I kept getting caught on the details,” Gallagher said. “I was drawing door handles. My lecturer said, ‘you haven't really drawn a house, but you do have a beautiful set of drawings of door handles. Maybe you would be better suited to industrial design?’

“So, I took a walk across campus and they liked what I showed them and they took me on. And I enjoyed it.”

After university he focused on furniture design and manufacture.

“I used a lot of recycled hardwood. It was really contemporary, hard-edged design, one offs,” Gallagher said. 

He spent 2006-07 working as a chef in London, but spent his days off at the Tate and other galleries, drawing in many influences. 

Since returning to Australia he has focused on sculpture, installation and jewellery making, working in bronze, brass, copper and leather. 

However, works currently on exhibition at Gallery 139, focus on Gallagher’s work life. 

The works draw on a decade of working beside his father, Paul Gallagher, as a roof-slater and copper-smith. 

The work is highly specialised and sees the fixture of slate tiles to the roofs of buildings which are usually historic. 

“It’s slow and repetitive work and I absolutely loved it,” Gallagher said.

“The materials started to inform my work in art.” 

A series of four works on paper relate to the muscle action required in roof slating. There are also five small works with steel facades on hardwood mounts. 

The works explore the materials and subject of the job, as well as locations in which he worked with his father, who recently retired. 

Gallagher’s works appear along side the works of Cherie Wren, Maddyson Hatton, Jill Orr, Bruce Roxburgh, Camille Kersley, Peter Lankas in an exhibition titled Drawn Out.

It’s on until July 22, at Gallery 139, 139 Beaumont Street.

For more information about the exhibition: