Friday, 23 October 2015

Interpreting Fictions with Greg Bennett

 Fictions by Greg Bennett - at the Christina Parker Gallery until October 31, 2015

GH:  Is it my imagination, or have we been waiting on a substantial solo show from you for a while? 

GB:  Fictions is the first solo show that I've had in about five years. The last was at The Rooms and was called Darkhorse. I have been producing work but the pieces were coming out more sporadic and individualistic.

GH:  The title Fictions seems to be a deliberately broad choice to describe narratives we might make up to go with your paintings – or did you have something else in mind?

GB:  I chose the term fictions for a couple of reasons.  I've been applying literary notions to constructing paintings' narratives. I like the idea of the literary notion of conceit, in the sense of a stylistic affectation or a convoluted metaphor. Fiction has an ability to get at an ephemeral tangibility more easily than nonfiction. Also, I could describe the general illusion of representational painting. So yes, the title Fictions is doing a lot of work.
Let's Go, oil on birch panel, 23" x 31.5", 2015

GH:  If I were forced to characterize your painting in a few words I would have said "representational painting with a preoccupation with light".  That description is based on past work and still might apply to work in this show like Diffused or Sparkle House.  What do you think?

GB:  I think describing my work as representational painting with a preoccupation with light is fairly accurate. Obviously, that's more evident in some paintings than others. But at a core I choose and design paintings that use light heavily as a tool to communicate the notion, feeling and atmosphere I'm going for. And as a person who deeply enjoys the act of seeing I can't help but want to share the things I create for their exceptional and intriguing qualities. 
Let's Get Out of Here 1, Oil on birch panel, 23" x 31.5", 2015

GH:  Meanwhile, there are images like Android Summer that I would not have been able to identify as yours.  It feels like you were really exploring your options…(comment please)

GB:  Android summer is a painting of Amara Wilkins and the Halloween costume that she made at the age of 9 or 10. I asked her to hold onto it until summer so I could make a painting of it. I just wanted to celebrate childhood innocence, play and her honest creativity. I think there are other elements in there that tie back in to the show, mostly the element of childhood.

GH:  The works on Plexi surprised me too.  Especially, Fools Fire the surface is almost impasto.  I don't remember you getting into your paint so much in the past.  I'd also like to know about the choice of Plexi Glass.  Good Morning although on canvas also has a significantly worked surface.

GB:  The work on Plexi came from the simple opportunity created by somebody giving me a bunch of beautifully made panels. The wonderful thing about Plexi is that the paint sits up on the surface not to mention that is a very quick, fast service to work on. It also led me to work on the birch panels. I was trained for a time by the wonderful painter Harold Klunder and used to paint quite thickly. That is bound to come out from time to time. Or maybe another way to put it is it's another great tool in the box I get to use (hopefully well).

Fool's Fire, oil on plexi glass mounted on birch cradle,
20" x 16", 2015.

GH:  To me, the Let's Get Out of Here series in the show has an almost retro or nostalgic feel.  What were they based on?

GB:  The Let's get Out of Here and That Way are inspired by film, which is another heavy influence in my work. The idea of the play between tight successive images has been a theme. They're based on almost throwaway images in film but when altered and put into the context of oil painting takes on a new and I think powerful quality. 

GH:  The images of the little boy tie into this memory-like feeling.  But then there's Sun (which is my favorite in the show).  To me this painting demonstrates your interest in light but in a whole new way.  The picture plane is saturated in light.  The viewer expects the boy's figure to be a silhouette but it isn't flat at all.  There is a wonderful build up of color that creates a subtle warmth and dimension. 

GB:  Sun is one of my favorite paintings too. I think it has (hopefully) a sublime quality. It's also one of my favorites because it says it all– all by itself.
Sun, Oil on birch panel, 23” x 31.5”,  2015 

GH:  Let's finish off by talking about the animal paintings.  When I saw the rabbits, I confess, I remembered you in a rabbit costume once upon a time.  What do you so like about rabbits?  I particularly liked Burrow because the curved figure of the rabbit fills the painting to the point of bursting; it's like a tight coil.  Not what I would expect from a painting of a taxidermy rabbit. 

GB:  The paintings of the animals all come from the Irish Natural History Museum– a Victorian wonderland of taxidermy and misguided adventures. I couldn't help but paint them.  I would have to admit that there is a dark sense of humor in those and a kind of fun weirdness. As well because they are taxidermy you really get to play with the composition of the painting of a fox or a rabbit, which when you think about it is rare sort of thing. I do have a thing for rabbits/ hares.  I admire them for some reason, maybe it's because they're kind of a humble creature but resilient and aware at the same time. There's always something distant about them.
Oil on birch panel
16.25” x 20.75”

For a link to Greg Bennett's gallery see:

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