May 14, 2014

Martin Bennett:
Three New Paintings

In the Viewing Room through May 2014

TrépanierBaer is pleased to present three new paintings by Martin Bennett.

Bennett is interested in how abstraction has authority over how a picture is viewed. He uses the relationship  between pictorial space, subject matter and perception to place abstraction as the key element to the structure of the painting. To provide some context to his practice and this new suite of paintings, Bennett has made the following observations:

At the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, England, there are two small paintings hanging one above the other. The first, titled ‘Landscape with Windmills near Haarlem’ painted in 1650-52 by Jacob van Ruisdael, depicts a Dutch landscape with a pair of windmills, a church, a second spire in the distance, grey sky and heavy clouds, and a small stream running beside a muddy road leading past a cottage with two figures at the cottage. Hanging below this painting is a very faithful copy painted in 1831 by John Constable.

What is interesting is that to the far right of the Constable painting there is a figure in a red coat on horseback and a small boy walking beside him, neither of which appear in the van Ruisdael painting. However, when Constable painted his copy, they did. In 1998, when the van Ruisdael painting was being cleaned, it was determined that the figures and the horse had been added at a later date -after the artist’s death- and it was decided that they should be removed. The Constable painting was acquired in 2007 and the two paintings are presented together.

So, in a way, the Constable painting is now a faithful copy of a painting that exists physically (less the actual paint that made up the added figures and horse), but not pictorially. There is a ‘ghost’ painting that now exists between the two of them, one that can be determined by the Constable copy but no longer seen. Though I do keep in mind that as the painting was not restored until 1998, there will be photographs of the van Ruisdael painting with the horse and figures, as well as many people who will remember seeing the painting in this state. But I still like thinking about where this other painting exists – as a memory with an accurate depiction by John Constable.

Born in 1970 in Winchester, England, Bennett immigrated to Canada in 1975. Bennett studied painting at the Alberta College of Art + Design, graduating with distinction in 1992. He divides his time between Canada, England and Italy. While currently living in Saskatoon, he spends time working in London and Rome and their smaller surrounding cities. He was short-listed for the Royal Bank of Canada Painting Competition in 2003; and in 2007, Bennett’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition titled The Shaded Concept at the Esplanade Art Gallery, Medicine Hat, Alberta. His work is included in numerous public collections including the Alberta Foundation for the Arts; Glenbow Museum, the Kelowna Art Gallery, Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives, and the Nickle Galleries; as well as in many private and corporate collections.

We look forward to seeing you at the gallery!