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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Monday, 7 September 2009

Margaretann Bennett profile - first published in The Herald Arts, Books & Cinema section in May 2009

Unfortunately, the gallery in which this exhibition appeared, Hannas Gallery in Dundee, has now closed. A great shame. Privately-owned galleries are up against it at the moment.



The ghosts of our past flit in and out of the mind like feathers brushing against skin. Subtle and half-remembered, but an essential part of what makes us human, occasionally we stumble across physical reminders of our past and the people who were so important to us at a given moment.
We all of us have bags in attics somewhere that contain memories in the shape of old letters, diaries, photographs and keepsakes relating to specific periods. When they are opened, the visual onslaught that follows can unleash a torrent of mixed feelings.
For award-winning Glasgow-based artist, Margaretann Bennett, who has a solo exhibition opening in Hanna’s Gallery in Dundee today, it was the death of an old friend which triggered a maelstrom of emotions and led her down the path of exploring the theme of friendship and individuality in her work.
According to Bennett, the exhibition title, Feathers and Friends, relates to a personal language she has developed of likening friends to feathers. “It has offered many pointers for my new paintings,” she explains. “Every feather is unique. Some are shed, others re-grown in their place – so there is transience. I have included many personal artefacts in the still lifes I’ve been working on, including keepsakes and old letters. A lot of my friendships in life were formed before the days of mobile phones, text and email.
“This process has taken me on a journey, reflecting on romantic times when people wrote to one another with quill pens and sealed their letters with wax. I have tried to bring this charm to my work, while adding a contemporary edge.”
The resulting set of paintings signals a sea change in Margaretann Bennett’s work that packs an emotional punch while still retaining their edge of subtle decorative beauty.
Bennett studied textiles at Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1991. Although she admits painting was her first love, it took a few years to reach the point where she was confident enough to call herself a painter. “In the beginning, I was almost too scared to paint,” she explains. “All my work was done on little bits of paper. I would reassemble them and stick them down onto one piece of paper. I’d sell them at craft fairs as handmade cards and it got to the point, because they were wee works of art in their own right, that people were putting them into frames.
“I had a spell of travelling and then, around 13 years ago, I got an enterprise grants and set myself up as a self-employed artist.”
Since then, Bennett’s work has evolved in quite a unique way. Her landscapes and still lifes always reflected her love of texture and design and their composition was never clich├ęd, though she now looks back and laughingly describes some of her early work as ‘twee’.
Her intuitive approach to rich colour and texture is anything but. In this new body of work, she has moved up a notch to explore a strong-handed approach to figurative painting as well as a mature yet fresh take on a narrative theme. Bold, but not brash, figures such as ‘Vaultina’ and Magpie’ with their mannequin-style immediacy and blackened eyes leap off the canvas and straight into your subconscious. Other work, such as ‘You Cut Me Out’ reflect her ongoing fascination with shards of memories and the ways in which we communicate – or used to communicate.
Her exploration of handwriting, be it in a mirror image or in readable form, takes this theme a stage further.
The world inhabited by Bennett’s new painting conveys a very real sense of what the romantic poets called ‘mutability’. Time passes and we give it meaning with the trappings of life we have to hand.

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