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Winchester School of Art

Anthony Benjamin: Currents – presenting works from the 1960s/’70s and 2000s

Published: 3 January 2018
Anthony Benjamin

The Winchester Gallery is excited to bring work by late British artist Anthony Benjamin, FRSA (b. 1931 – d. 2002) to Winchester School of Art where Benjamin began teaching art in 1965.

The Winchester Gallery
2 February – 23 March 2018
Open Mondays – Fridays, 10am to 4pm and Saturdays, 11am to 3pm

Private View 1 February 2018 – 5pm to 7pm
The Winchester Gallery, Ground Floor of Westside Building,
Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton,
Park Avenue, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 8DL

 

Anthony Benjamin: Currents is the first spring exhibition in our re-launched gallery programme and is the first selected retrospective of Benjamin’s work in over 15 years. This exhibition brings together works from Benjamin’s printmaking, painting, and sculptural practice from the late 1960s / early 1970s and the late 1990s / early 2000s. Together they explore Benjamin’s engagement with vibrancy, whether in his electric use of colours in his early prints or in the vivid and dancing abstract paintings of his final years.

With a nomadic heart that beat to the countercultural currents of his time, Benjamin’s career as an artist journeyed across many experiments and passions, as he himself travelled and worked in London, Paris, Italy, Canada, the USA, and Morocco. As an artist with a hybrid art practice, Benjamin didn’t develop a signature style, rather he developed a commitment to creating art of singular energy that would stimulate the viewer’s senses and imagination.

Anthony Benjamin’s bright final paintings featured in this exhibition represent a return to his creative process of using colour for maximum visual impact. He had first explored this in his 1972 screen print series the ‘Roxy Bias Suite’. These screen prints, also presented in Currents and produced with printer Kevin Harris, were inspired by intense conversations about electronic music Benjamin had with his student and friend the artist and musician Brian Eno. Anthony Benjamin first taught Eno in Ipswich and then at the Winchester School of Art and they continued to correspond after that period.

However, Benjamin’s return to using intense, fresh colours in these final paintings was triggered by his reaction to his and his partner Nancy Patterson’s encounters with resonant instruments such as the gimbre and oud in their travels to Morocco. The sights and sounds of Marrakesh intensified Anthony Benjamin’s passion for capturing and creating vibrant encounters through his art. For Anthony Benjamin: Currents Brian Eno is producing a new piece using the technology he has developed for his on-going series 77 MILLION PAINTINGS. It is a software programme, which, as Brian Eno explains, “shuffles image-layers over one another to create new combinations and hence new pictures.” In his installations to date, Eno has used images that he had drawn himself, but for this new piece he is using images of Anthony Benjamin’s works selected for Currents. As Eno points out “The number of unique combinations of images in the piece is in excess of 5 million.” (From correspondence with Currents co-curator Stephanie Sinclair)

Anthony Benjamin was selected by Roy Ascott to teach on the groundbreaking The Groundcourse at Ealing Art College in 1961. Following this, Benjamin taught at Ipswich where he first met and taught Brian Eno. By the mid-1960s, Benjamin was teaching at Winchester School of Art and had Eno join him as a student here at WSA. They shared an interest in avant-garde experiments across the arts, developing a friendship and correspondence that continued beyond their time as teacher and student. Some of Eno’s correspondence to Benjamin from this period forms part of the archival material on display in Anthony Benjamin: Currents.

Having studied drawing with Fernand Léger in Paris, Benjamin was associated for a time with the St Ives School - painting domestic scenes and portraits in earthy tones, somber and pensive in ambience. Benjamin also spent time learning at SW Hayter’s Atelier 17, once more in Paris, exploring new developments in printmaking. His resulting print series An Homage to Night Fishing, using a Sidney Graham poem as inspiration, was later shown and written about by Chris Stevens and acquired for the Tate Britain collection.

By the early 1960s, Benjamin had worked in Italy on a government scholarship, developing artwork that showed his severance with social realism and traditional modes of expression. These paintings, some of which are on show in Currents, are the start of an investigation of the flattening of perspective and arranging patterns of colour on the canvas to evoke particular visual and emotional responses in the viewer, which is a current running throughout his life’s work. From that point, Benjamin turned towards the exuberant palette that enlivens the works presented in this new selected retrospective.

Anthony Benjamin: Currents is co-curated by Director of The Winchester Gallery, Dr August Jordan Davis, by artist Nancy Patterson who was the partner of Anthony Benjamin, and by independent curator and art historian Stephanie Sinclair, Owner of Abbesses Arts Agency.

 

For more information on the work of Anthony Benjamin, FRSA see:  http://www.anthonybenjamin.org/

 

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