Chris Bennett

Blue Skies II - On Canvas by Chris Bennett
A Closer View by Chris Bennett
A massive Stanley Kubrick fan (citing 2001 A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut amongst his favourite movies ever), the film, ‘Forbidden Planet’, ‘Early episodes and series’ of Dr Who and Christmas are just some of celebrated contemporary figurative artist, Chris Bennett’s most favourite things. Resisting the urge to burst into Mary Poppins-esque song and dance routines, these are purported to be Bennett’s most favourite things in accordance with his own website. The hugely popular fine artist’s website also sheds light on a few more things about Bennett we weren’t necessarily aware of previously. Like his penchant for storyboards, clearly inspired by his love of film it would appear. Meanwhile, and while biography facts are a bit thin on the ground on his own website, we’ve discovered elsewhere that Bennett’s something of a deep thinker. We mean, even by creative standards. Unearthing a past Q & A sesh with another party – and when pressed on the subject of the reasons behind Bennett making art in the first place – we’re privy to some very well considered and expressed answers to any artist’s eternal poser.
The gist of Bennett’s response centres around what lies beneath all of our surfaces and such like, and the artist insisting that ‘deep, deep down’ he’s attempting to piece together ‘something requiring no outside associations other than the human commonality in order to read it’. To lift Bennett’s quote in its entirety he said; “In other words, I am talking about what is there when the allegory and journalism are skimmed off”. And then to underline what he’s going on about he told the interviewer about what happened when he was a 9-year old and went on a school trip to the British Museum to see the Elgin Marbles. In his own(and what we’re quickly learning is an) inimitable way, Bennett states; “At this stage I'm about as near to innocent as I'm ever likely to be - a modern working class lad who knows jack shit about ancient mythology other than vague notions from 'Jason and the Argonauts' and the Hercules movies my dad took me to see. But I remember the effect those marbles had on my young mind”. Before he goes on to add; “That assembly of weird stone-shaped bodies was like a frozen wave, dead and alive at the same time. I was looking at some compelling game of ordered stone, a silent music of mass; heaving, swinging, tumbling, pushing, leaning and tying, but resembling people”. As descriptions of the Elgin Marbles go, Bennett’s eulogising takes some beating. The transcript of the exchange between Bennett and his questioner went on to explain that the budding artist later found out what the metamorphic rock figures had to do with the belief system of one of the ancient cradles of modern civilisation and concludes with Bennett stressing that what we need to experience something first hand for ourselves rather than rely on historical or statistical evidence by bringing into question the difference between describing a sugar lump and tasting it; and likewise, a lecture on wind dynamics and witnessing a yacht straining under full sail.
Anyway, enough of the lyrical waxing and instead let’s concentrate on the cold, hard facts about Bennett the exponent of contemporary figurative work. Born in London in 1957, he studied under Euan Euglow, Geoffrey Camp and Philip Sutton at the Slade School of Fine Art back in the early 1980s. We also have it on good authority that Bennett has exhibited regularly at both the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Show and at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters at London’s Mall Galleries. Furthermore – and in 2004 – Bennett signed an agreement with one of the country’s most respected and successful fine art publishers, DeMontford Fine Art, in the capacity of them representing him commercially and moreover introducing his individual pieces and collections to a far-reaching new audience, courtesy of their network of independent art galleries situated across Britain. Not just Britain though, as DeMontford’s reach also encompasses America and Japan as potential new frontiers for their stable of selected artists, affording contemporary art buyers in these places to witness/purchase open works and limited editions.
Bennett naturally has always remained open for commissioned business too, and it’s on this particular note that he’s perhaps better known to certain viewers/readers. In as much as Bennett’s commissioned portrait depicting the noted Sir William Hawthorne, and now resident in the collection of Churchill College, Cambridge. To the uninitiated, Hawthorne was of course the co-designer – alongside the more famous of the duo, Sir Frank Whittle – who were jointly responsible for the design of the world’s first jet engine. Which made for an impressive illustrative early inclusion in his artistic CV as he started making his way in the contemporary art world.
Returning to Bennett’s understanding of what he hopes his personal art projects and the very mantra he brings to every piece, from the initial approach to the finished visual article, is this fundamental belief that he paints an internal world, a distillation if you like, graphically engendering something seen or half glimpsed in life, which is digested and later realised as a formal image. Bennett routinely sees himself painting an ideal, not an idea, and that his back catalogue of paintings are the outcome of giving an external shape to an internal experience. Bennett readily identifies the events which have occurred at some stage in his pictorials when he glances back over them, however – and crucially – he recalls them taking place before him, akin to the way in which you might remember that first encounter with people you later grow to love. For Bennett it’s all about giving compositional expression to these life events, and the insistence that there must always be a seed, the grain of sand in the oyster which symbolises what is most important in the artist’s eyes.

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