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VZ Gallery, London
2 - 22 December 2011
Reviewed by: Judith Jones »
It has been a while since viewing Paul Bennett's work at The VZ Gallery near Brick Lane before Christmas; but I just can't get his awe-inspiring images out of my mind. So better late than never I'm putting pen to paper, or rather fingertip to touch pad in an attempt to portray in words what they meant to me.
Reaching The VZ Gallery is by means of a colourful event in itself; strolling through the streets, taking In the show of multicultural goods mingling with voices that I cannot understand takes me to another place altogether away from the high rise blocks and tourist attractions that greet you when stepping off the train at Waterloo. This area has long been one for the artist to feel at home; the struggling artists studios hide amongst these streets, settling where they can survive on little more than pin money. Nonetheless the bright red pristinely painted door of The VZ Gallery stands out amongst the other dilapidated buildings nearby.
Walking in to this space; out of the buzz of the Sunday afternoon street market takes me into a stillness that is not unique to any white cube space, just here it is such a contrast from the outside world. On the walls of this compact gallery Paul Bennett's oil paintings break this silence by their powerful interpretations of some of the most uncontrollable, awe inspiring forces of nature, visually explored through images of the sea, skies and land. Here are a series of seascapes that capture the immense oceans, the essence of their force, untamed by man. He captures these overwhelming forces of nature creating images of crashing waves along rocky bays against a backdrop of varying skies. The emotion that appears to be entwined within these works reaches out and touches the viewer. You cannot help be moved by the sounds and visions portrayed here within the images. We can hear the roar of the waves and smell the salt thrown up in the air.
Alongside these works are a few large abstract pieces that to my mind draw upon the deeper emotional reading of the seascapes. These abstracts elevate us to view an altogether more ethereal, otherworldly visual, whilst still holding within them this overwhelming sense of power.
Somehow we know what that Paul isn't just simply showing us a picturesque copy of a powerful reality; these works are far more than that. They show a depth of emotion that is somewhere between despair and manic elation. I would put it to you that your perception of one of Paul's images, particularly from his abstract series, would alter on a daily basis depending on your personal emotions at the point of viewing them. These images are not fixed in one reading but open to our perception of the moment. The ethereal quality transcends the limits of documenting nature or reality but depicts the power of our very souls and the depths or heights to which our emotions can reach. Paul's skill is to of created images that ask us to reach into ourselves to search for the meanings, he does not give away the answers, he does not reveal his true intentions. When feeling depressed the strength and use of colours and form would for me emulate a vision of hell, reminding me of my human frailty; on other days I would find an opposing quality emanating from these same images; a feeling of joy to be alive; I would feel in touch with a great sense of pleasure to exist and be part of this majestic world that is beyond my mere human control.
Artistically, we could compare Paul's use of light, colour and power within his paintings as representative or influenced by Turners great works. I believe Paul's are more personal, and reveal a depth of emotion, particularly in the abstract series, that originates from an intense need to portray a scene signifying something more than a visual reality. This is an artist I feel we will be seeing a lot more of in the future.
I am a fine art photographer whose interests include social and philosophical studies of urban life, expressed within my street photography and urban projects. I am currently studying for a research degree in Fine Art.
Within the genre of Concrete photography I also enjoy producing abstract images using camera-less techniques that reveal ambiguous images with multiple interpretations.
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