Coming up with the right word to describe the works of Benji Engee is extremely challenging. His sculptures and paintings are intrinsically refined, but can give off all kinds of vibes. Benji Engee was born and raised in Hong Kong and has been working and living in Los Angeles, yet his artistic mind is of another world entirely.
“I’m a very nosy artist,” Engee admits. “Poking at people’s secrets and asking questions that [make people uncomfortable]. But fundamentally it is my love for people and the world that compels me to propose a better world and visualize all these scenarios that create a better future for all.”
Seeing himself as a “social critic”, Benji Engee is an artist of his own. With a very humble yet convicting vision of reality, Engee is able to express more than just color and patterns through his work. “My bodies of work at large are visual materializations of ideas and arguments that pertain to our existence as humans and a component of a larger nature,” he says.
Despite having grown up participating in a wide range of activities including practicing Chinese calligraphy, swimming, and being a cub scout, Engee said art always held a special place in his heart. He’s got it down for us: “The more thought out a work is, the more it speaks.” Hash-tag words of wisdom.
“I guess I have a problem with the word inspiration, it sort of implies that if I’m not inspired, I’m bland and other thoughts don’t count,” Engee says. “Every small bit counts. They’re very important.”
Engee’s very liberating yet rational personality is brought to light when it comes to discovering himself and his work. “New ideas inform the old ones,” he says. “…sometimes it’s easy to venture from one idea to the next, and eventually all over the place, [but it’s] fascinating when at the end of the day, after all the exploration and research, you really hit home and arrive at the starting idea. [Personally], I see it more as contemplation and hypothesizing possibilities, rather than seeking inspiration.”
Unlike many other artists, Engee has sophistication with the way he express himself in his art that rules over the typecast artists-are-emotional-people-that-listen-to-sad-songs-and-paint-sad-pictures phenomena. “There are always some ideas, arguments, conflicts and discomfort that my work puts forth,” Engee says. “I’m not very good at expressing my emotions, to be honest. I just let things sit until they hit me.”
His works have a somewhat medieval touch and his art speaks of a talent that could belong somewhere in the Renaissance period. His sculptures are almost majestic-looking and could only have been done with very polished finger work. “I started out doing oil paintings, but now I’m more interested in clay,” Engee says. “It is the flexibility and endless possibilities with clay that really fascinates me.”
“For [the longest time], I believed in Truth as one and only Truth,” Engee says. “So there are a lot of things that I don’t particularly like and I would criticize. But now I tend to approach it from [a different] angle, towards creating a version of the world that I feel satisfied with, rather than bashing the old one. So the world that surrounds me…There is a myriad of ways to live it, and you want to have all of the good stuff around you. Well…I mean if you can, why not?”
“It’s important to know what you love,” Engee states, “…but not in the way that people say what you love defines who you are—well that too—but a lot of times we, as cosmopolitan 21st century human beings, spend so much time on things that we don’t actually need, want or care about. We just do it because that’s what everybody else is doing.”
“Knowing what you love is equivalent to knowing the force that drives your life… It never fails to point you to the right direction.”