Q&A with Greg Bennet
What was the inspiration behind this body of work? The idea comes from a few different places. I’ve always been a fan of night; ever since I was a little child, I hated going to sleep and loved to stay up well past my bedtime (apparently this runs in the family). Over the past 20 years or more I’ve periodically painted night scenes but this time I really wanted to concentrate on it and see how far I could push it. Also, I used tents in a lot of the work because they have an inherent quality of vulnerability and trust that adds an emotional element I think twilight and night time also share.
What kinds of themes has your work walked though over the years? You’ve done series on horses, Valley of the Dolls – is there disconnect there or are they on a spectrum? I like that my work has had a kind of variety over the years. There’s lots of wonderful things in the world and it’s hard not to want to participate in them. For instance, Darkhorse, the show I had at the Rooms, was about subtle twitching movement of horses I explored through expressive painting. It had similar themes of vulnerability and trust but the paintings had more movement in them. The show after that, Fictions, was based around the idea and function of the conceit in art making. It was more about how art often edits out much of reality in order to push and exaggerate other qualities to create the desired effect. In that show I used incidental images from movies and a lot of the work was done in diptychs and triptychs because I was also working with ideas about series and continuity between images. This show has definite elements of both. The source material was staged and developed on Mount Scio Farms in St John’s. Using ideas around lighting I gained from working occasionally in film, I would set up tableaus and light them, having to work very quickly to take advantage of magic hour/dusk, twilight, then of course night. So it might not be immediately obvious, but yes all the work is in a kind of spectrum.
Do you have a studio routine? Usually nights and weekends. But for this show I started keeping baker’s hours, getting up extremely early in the morning, somewhere between midnight and 2am, and working until 4 or 5pm. I know it sounds strange but I found it extremely productive. Just stopping long enough to take a run at sunrise.
What NL artist, not necessarily visual, most influences you? My first was Gerald Squires; I went to school at Mary Queen of the World school around the time he painted The Stations of the Cross [for the parish church]. I remember having to do the stations of the cross and getting distracted by his work, wanting to know how do it and forgetting to pray altogether. Outside of that my peer group is pretty impressive and I’m just hoping to keep up with the exceptional work being made here.
What non-NL artist, not necessarily visual, most influences you? It’s hard to say. Matisse, The Pre-Raphaelites, Caravaggio, Velazquez, Samuel Beckett, Max Beckmann, Robert Frank, Cindy Sherman, Mark Rothko, Alice Neel, it goes on and on. I’m a huge fan of art, no matter what the medium, often lately cinematography, so I find myself influenced and inspired by a lot of it. I love anything that makes me feel that something’s been considered smarty and given a powerful quality no matter what it is.
What is your favourite work of art in the whole world? I don’t have a favourite work of art in the whole world, that’s too hard. But one of my favourite paintings that’s been stuck in my head is when I got to see Matisse’s Red Studio. The painting has such a special quality about it, made me feel placed in my bones in a timeless way. There’s a real magic about it
Greg Bennet’s solo exhibition Even After Dark (a dozen paintings, oil on canvas) is being held over at Christina Parker Gallery.