Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Ben René’s relationship hell

Ottawa artist is in good company

Ben René is a jealous gay boy. Seeing other cute guys kissing has made him bitter and he’s been labelled as the sardonic single guy by his happily paired-off friends. A recent graduate of the Ottawa School Of Art, René has channelled this frustration into his art and created pieces that tell his story.

René shrugs off the “gay art” moniker because he hopes people will see his art on a more universal level. The themes his creations explore can be applied to any couple, he says.

“I want people to look at my art and see that it’s about relationships, it’s about intimacy and that’s something people can relate to, whether you’re gay or straight,” says René.

Yet his pieces noticeably touch on gay themes and include pieces on premature ejaculation and surprise one-night stands.

Inspired by the single life, René, 25, admits he hasn’t been in a “real” relationship in close to five years and says there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of people can relate to looking for a companion while wandering through drought-stricken desert of relationships.

“I think what I do is I zone in on specific parts of relationships,” says René. “I try to think about certain things that annoy or hinder me and then I try to make it into my own.”

Gail Bourgeois, coordinator of the Ottawa School Of Art’s diploma program, commends René’s imagery, although she admits for the children who were present at the graduation show, René’s pieces may have been a bit too risqué.

René execute most of his art through photography, a medium he says he belongs in.

“I think they’re provocative but there’s something else happening there too,” says Bourgeois. “They’re not in your face to be in your face. There’s story on a physiological level and an emotional level, his work is very sophisticated in that way. He’s done a great job with the presentation.”

While teachers and art lovers alike were drawn in to René’s sexual scenes, René struggled with his own direction, finally settling back on art. After attempting careers as varied as being a flight attendant and a computer engineer, Rene decided to go with what made him happy.

“So art and I had to have a little break at one point, because we were having problems, but now we’re back together,” says René.

“I’m actually planning on representing the [Ottawa School Of Art] in an upcoming show on photography.” He is also branching out into video art with an upcoming project about online dating.