"Different Styles" by Mike Strom in the Astoria Review,
Chronicle by Janice Steinhagen, December
"Different Styles: Harry and Thomas Bennett Show at RiverSea
Gallery" written by Mike Strom published in the Astoria
Review, September 2005.
brought up in his father's studios in Connecticut, started drawing
at an early age. "I always wanted to be an artist; my oldest
recollections are of time spent in the studio painting alongside
my father. He taught me how to paint without imposing any style
on me." Leaving home, Tom went to the University of Connecticut
where he earned a BFA and learned how to think as a painter. Thomas'
work, as exhibited at RiverSea side by side with his father's, is
quite different. Harry's paintings seem to vibrate with an almost-Degas
quality about them; embedded is an intriguing humor, an obvious
remnant from his experience in painting book jackets. Meanwhile,
Thomas' have a heavy classical feel; swift sure strokes and dynamic
composition that loudly proclaims its solidity. "I like to
indulge the subconcious, walking that fine line between childish
wonder and logical control," he said.
and short stint as a cab driver, Tom decided not to go for his MFA
and went to Europe, settling in Spain where he found a studio in
Barcelona and set to painting. In Barcelona he was able to rent
an apartment for $85 a month just a few blocks from the beach and
the cafes where he would met other expatriot artists. "I've
heard everything has changed now," he explained.
While in Barcelona
he took part in group shows and had two one-man shows; however,
pending business called him back to the East. He returned to New
York and he moved to the Willamsburg section of Brooklyn before
its regentrification and the influx of artists. "I got in at
the right time, before the prices skyrocketed," he said. Thomas
married at 43 and works half the year doing illustration and shows
his work in galleries in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the RiverSea Gallery
in Astoria. "Though I'm strongly influenced by my classical
training, I love pushing the medium around. Motion is essential.
I'm always thinking about how muscles and forms can almost connect."
following is an excerpt from an article written by Janice Steinhagen
based on an interview with Thomas Bennett published in the Willimantic
Chronicle on December 21, 2000.
Talk for long with Thomas
Bennett about his art, and you'll hear him repeatedly, unself-consciously,
refer to what he does as "pushing images around." Look
for some time at his work, however, and the movement of the medium
Bennett, a 1982 alumnus
of University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts, is currently showing
his monotypes and oil paintings in "Animals and Other People"
at the Jorgensen Auditorium's lower level gallery. The work is all
figurative, dominated by the striking series of horses in motion.
"The idea of motion
came about because of the medium itself," Bennett explained.
"I love activity in images." Not surprisingly, the spontaneity
of monoprinting (creating an image directly on a printing plate,
yielding a single print) attracted him during his undergrad days
"I discovered the
medium, and I loved it--it's much like painting. I don't have a
lot of patience with my work; I have to see results immediately."
Using oil-based printing inks on plexiglass, Bennett found that
he could literally push the image around, retaining the sense of
momentum in the finished print.
But the medium had one
drawback: a limited scale. "I'd been working with oil paint
since I was a child, and I preferred it to any other medium,"
he said. "I was trying to find a way to achieve that kind of
malleability (inherent in monotype) and trying to expand the scale."
"Nude in Doorway"
The solution was painting in oils on styrene, a slick-surfaced plastic.
Bennett discovered that this surface allowed the pint to slide effortlessly,
to bleed and blur as did the printing inks, enhancing the sense of
movement in his animal imagery.
Bennett said he chose
dogs and horses as subjects not out of any particular equine or
canine fondness, but because he appreciated their innate sense of
movement. The photography of Edward Muybridge, who captured both
human and animal figures in motion in his early stop-action photo
sequences, also served as something of an inspiration, he said.
Bennett's animal forms,
built up of sweeping strokes of ink or paint, are distorted, blurred
and elongated as they race headlong across the paper or board. Most
are composed of dark neutrals, primarily black, sometimes with bands
of color above or below to suggest an environment. Occasionally
lines are incised in the paint to add details like a harness. One
striking image, "Chien Blanc," depicts a sinister-looking
cat seemingly caught in the moment after landing a leap: the slightly
crouched limbs are blurred, the head lowered and the ears back.
There's a sense of threat in the animal's stance. The dog images
tend toward the threatening also, with plenty of bared teeth.
The show also features
Bennett's figure and portrait paintings and prints. The nudes share
with the animal images a dark and foreboding palette and a sense
of spontaneous creation. "Nude Landscape" leaves the styrene
bare white for the skin surfaces of the cropped female torso, swirling
dark neutrals around the limbs and neck. Other more "finished"
looking paintings still retain quick brushstrokes and sketchiness,
sometimes even drips. Where Bennett does use color in his figures,
it tends toward the heated orange-red end of the spectrum, dramatizing
the contrast with the dark surroundings.
Concerning the tendency
to darkness, Bennett said "It's hard to say that there's anything
conscious going on there. I suppose I have a kind of cynical, dark
sense of humor." Or, he added, it may be the influence of his
artist father, a painter who once did a series of dark illustrations
for Dante's Divine Comedy."
While Bennett's portraits
are less "dark," they still tend toward a sallow green
undertone that gives the viewer the impression that something's
ever so slightly amiss. The greenish palette gives the exuberant
laughing subject in "That's Not Funny" an ominous sense
of laughing inappropriately. The unsettled atmosphere also haunts
his self-portraits, in which his face is averted from the viewer.
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