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Ben Hines aka Humble Dumpling

If you are a Nambour local or frequent Nambeezy, chances are you have seen or at least passed by a piece of street art by Humble Dumpling. 

Ben Hines aka Humble Dumpling has a highly anticipated art / hip hop show at the Village Pickle / Bad Habit Records compound, incorporating the infamous Alley come Sunday October 9th from 1pm.

Ben was gracious enough to sit with North Arm Wizard Cult to answer a range of questions re: his creative mediums, processes and inspirations.

NAWC: So most folk around the coast might know you as Humble Dumpling. I’d like to dig behind that ‘name’ if you will – How long have you been creating art; drawing, painting, ceramics etc? Can you identify / pinpoint a person or source of inspiration / encouragement to do so?

B: Names are power. Looking back, my choice of street moniker was maybe a bit cavalier, chosen as much for its sing-songy vibes as any semantic quality. Dumplings are delicious and humility is a virtue I strive to embody. The synthesis of the two concepts is at once dreadfully serious and powerfully absurd, which I think is a decent description of both myself and my art.

I've been drawing since my fingers were equal to the task, painting with acrylics since 2015, and dabbling with ceramics since 2010. It was my extravagantly creative lover Fee (you may know her as Spirit You) who first introduced me to ceramics, and I remain forever grateful for the hook up.

NAWC: I am in awe of your line work and attention to detail in both your plywood and ceramic pieces – what training or learnings have you undertaken? How have you honed these practices?

B: Most of my creative skillset, has been acquired autodidactically and I think my work is simultaneously better and worse for it. In 2015, I studied a Diploma of Ceramic Arts at the Burnside TAFE, under the expert tutelage of Rowley Drysdale and Andrew Bryant. I'm ashamed to say I absorbed less than I should have, likely as a direct result of my being stoned much of the time.

NAWC: I know that you are constantly working on numerous projects - what drives you to continue creating?

B: Oh man. It's a very foundational part of my personal happiness. I honestly loop out a bit when I don't have opportunity to make stuff. As far as the broader philosophical underpinnings of that urge, I've got what I think is a pretty pertinent quote from author Clive Barker, that speaks to my feelings on the matter.

"I am a man, and men are animals who tell stories. This is a gift from God, who spoke our species into being, but left the end of our story untold. That mystery is troubling to us. How could it be otherwise? Without the final part, we think, how are we to make sense of all that went before: which is to say, our lives? So we make stories of our own, in fevered and envious imitation of our Maker, hoping that we'll tell, by chance, what God left untold. And finishing our tale, come to understand why we were born."

NAWC: What is your favourite medium? Do you have one or does it shift?

B: I'm pretty notorious for adopting new media. Which I guess is only detrimental if you've yet to adequately master those you already employ (did somebody say ceramics?) Mostly, my various media serve to enrich and re-energise each other through a kind of creative cross pollination. If I could only serve one master though, it would be the mechanical pencil. Drawing allows for a very immediate and intimate expression of my personal aesthetic that no other medium has yet come close to equalling.

NAWC: Creating visual art is often a solitary experience. How important is it for you to engage with the local art community or with fellow creative peers?

B: Traditionally, it hasn't been especially important to me, but by some mysterious alchemy I'm becoming something of a social creature as I age. Nambour especially has been key to reshaping my relationship with creative community, and I think that's probably just a reflection of the fact that I've been around for 13 years or so now. If you stay in one place long enough you put down roots. More to the point, there's a genuine abundance of super talented and super cool peeps in our local scene, and it's pretty intensely gratifying to be communicating and collaborating within that group.

NAWC: I do subscribe to the belief that the process is as important as the end result. Personally, often more so. What do you say this notion in relation to your practice?

B: I find process and product difficult to extract from each other. My work nearly always begins with a very distinct aesthetic outcome in mind, so in that sense I am ruled primarily by end result. With that said, my process is my happy place, and as such, functions as a cornerstone for my happiness and general mental wellbeing. I wouldn't toil in service of the end product if I wasn't enjoying the labour, and I wouldn't enjoy the labour if I couldn't enjoy the end product. I guess my answer is "Why not both?" Insert Taco Girl GIF here.

NAWC: It seems that you produce a lot of work and it’s easy to think that you're swiftly pumping out all these wondrous pieces. I want to share a Nick Cave quote with you and get your thoughts on this: “The artistic process seems to be mythologised quite a lot into something far greater than it actually is. It is just hard labour.”

B: Nick knows what's up. And this relates to one of the primary ideological underpinnings of my work. Which is to say – the elevation of simple elements, through the stubborn and persistent application of effort. 

I don't often share works in progress (some part of me still prefers the mystique of the carnival showman, whose miracles manifest fully formed, in a puff of smoke and a casually spoken word of power) but when people decry their inability to create similar work, I can easily point to my exploratory sketches as proof of the transformative power of hard work. Mine is a practice of slow refinement.

NAWC: Can you talk to your engagement with ‘street art’ (for want of a better term, as I know there is an ongoing debate / robust conversation about this label). What drew you to displaying or sharing your art ‘down on the street‘, to quote Iggy?

B: Possessed of a naturally defiant nature, and raised on a heady stew of rabidly anti-authoritarian media, it was perhaps inevitable that I would come to share my work on the street. The artist, in the archetypal sense of the word, seeks no loftier goal than the salvation of the human soul. The battle for which is fought in public spaces, between carelessly erected monuments of consumerist overconsumption and vast unbroken fields of institutional grey.

NAWC: What was the first piece you ever put up?

B: Operation "Grigor's Galley" involved the application of a very handsome Pringle Man moustache to a Steve Irwin billboard in Caloundra, circa 1998. Later operations included Operation "DragonFish", which I mention here solely because I like the name. 

NAWC: I’m really interested in ‘ownership’ of art in general, especially ’street art’ – once sold privately or offered up to the community, this piece takes on a new life. Can you speak to letting go of your work?

B: Any assertion of ownership is moot once a piece finds a home on the streets. Will it be celebrated or reviled by the eyes that fall upon it? Will it be torn from the wall? Or adorned with crudely rendered cocks, jizzing their mockery across carefully applied pigment? Ours is not to know.

There is something pretty galling about the idea of someone pulling it off the wall and selling it though. The transitory nature of street art is part of its appeal, and you accept that as the very reasonable price of play, but I do generally envision pieces as succumbing to natural forces as opposed to capitalist forces.

NAWC: I know firsthand not only your love of Naamba but your knowledge of our local ‘street art’ scene. Where do you hail from originally? When and why did you move to Nambour? What do you love about Nambour?

B: I was a Clowntown kid growing up. In 2010, I met a Nambour girl, who was to become the great and enduring love of my life. After minor sharehousing detours in Buderim and later Verrierdale and Woombye, we finally made our way back to Naamba. We've been here ever since and probably always will be.

My favourite part of Nambour is its abundant greenery, trees and gardens. Also, Petrie Creek (there be Platypi in them waters man!) Also, a thriving street culture. Also, the people and the community. Also, our convenient proximity to hinterland waterholes. There's a lot to love.

NAWC: Most folk might know you as the illustration and sculptural timber and ceramic guy, but you are a hiphop lyricist to boot. How did you find your way into this genre of musical expression?

B: I was a poet before I was a rapper. Some time In 1993, my eldest brother Paul brought home a mix tape with this song "One Little Indian" by ALT. I'd heard hip hop before, but this was the first track that gave me those classic boom bap feels that made me wanna learn every word and recite them to anyone who would listen. From that point on I was hooked. I don't think I started writing my own raps until 97, but that was the moment I truly fell in love with hip hop as a form of expression.

NAWC: Being a fuzzy rocker, primarily, I’m not really versed in the hip hop genre, though I really appreciate your poetry and the ability to rapid fire this narrative in a decipherable manner. How much time and energy goes into not only only writing but rehearsing rhymes?

B: A lot of time and a lot of energy. As with my visual stuffs, I work slowly, turning words in my mind and my mouth, until their shapes are engraved, and rounded by repetition.

NAWC: You have an EP out – wanna plug that?!

The "Humble + Militant Poet" EP is available on all the streaming sites, along with our subsequent single "Rise Above", which is a distinctly Beastie flavoured slice of bass-driven hip hop oddity. Check it out if you feel so inclined. Fresh stuffs soon.

NAWC: Exhibiting in the infamous Village Pickle / Bad Habit Record’s alley was an amazing experience personally, and where I first met some true Nambour legends, including yourself. What can we expect from your upcoming show?

B: A pretty eclectic visual miscellany of woodcut pieces in varying sizes. Ceramic sculpture. Maybe even some ceramic jewellery. Gonna have a super limited edition of 25 Humble X Bad Habit T-shirts, featuring my robo remix of the classic Bad Habit wasp. Zines, stickers, and of course, free buttons for anyone who wants one (while supplies last).

NAWC:  Any future plans, shows or gigs coming up?

B: Well I'm at Bad Habit in Namby on Sunday the 9th of October for some arty hip hop shenanigans [BH: click here to let us know you'll be there], and I'll be exhibiting fresh sculptural works with the freshly formed and outrageously talented art collective "Liminal Beings" from Friday the 25th to Sunday the 27th at Lantana Space in Caloundra. Sometime in the early months of 2023, I'll be releasing my personal Grimoire, which I've touted as my Magnum Opus and to date has consumed three years of my creative life. So that's a little bit exciting.

NAWC: I’d like to thank you for your time Ben. You are known by your alias Humble; in my experience this is right on. You always champion those around you and your authentic generosity is refreshing in this Zooniverse. Any parting words for the folks reading this?

B: Party on dudes. Be excellent to each other.

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@lanceksinclair is djing this Saturday morning in the shop. Lance is an underground lifer and singer for @grieg_the_band .
Come in on sat!!

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