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Artist Statement

Art is a bridge between the inner and the outer worlds, and when it is good, it brings aesthetic pleasure combined with a sense of our connection to the Universe. Joseph Campbell has said that the way of the mystic is similar to the way of the artist only the mystic has no craft. The artist remains tethered to the world, to sensation, and by focusing on it intently, allows some truth to show itself.

At it's best, Art draws us in, holds us in aesthetic arrest, and moves us. We are not always ready for this. Science, Religion and Art are, ultimately, different ways to get to the same place. I believe that all great art speaks past itself and it's superficial appearances, but that it is also the plain and simple appearance that somehow launches it beyond itself. That is part of its mystery. It is why I feel the way I do when I look at Cezanne's " Apples and Plate of Biscuits", for instance. The painting sends me into another world - it transcends itself. How it does this cannot be properly explained by anyone, as far as I know. We can only explain around it. The faith I have in this power of great Art, keeps my going.

Jamesville, NY, November 2011


In the text of the catalogue from a Bonnard exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I read that there is a renewed interest in his work, and that the general art establishment is now acknowledging Bonnard’s greatness and his advanced pictorial and color sensibility. These attributes were there all along of course, and I often wonder about what it is that makes some painting harder to see, or at least harder to see how good it is.

Bonnard was a favorite painter of mine when I was an art student, and I remember feeling that I wasn’t supposed to like his work, that it was rated below Matisse, for instance. That was back in the 70’s. It seems that this idea had filtered down and settled in to Art history and was being conveyed to art students, directly and indirectly.

 I find comfort reading about past artist’s lives, choosing to sublimate or ignore the inevitable sad parts, and to bask in the feeling of being a part of a very large family. I relate to Bonnard’s sometimes self- deprecating manner, the way that he fussed over his pictures, and his often quirky sense of composition. I find it comforting to be part of a very long and rich tradition.

Around 1991, I turned to representation after 16 years of making non-objective pictures. My motivation for this change had nothing to do with non-objective vs. representational in any qualitative sense. It had to do with exploring new territory ambitiously and the belief that what matters first and foremost is the quality or level of the work. The best of the past is always there to remind you, and it doesn’t care at all what is presently fashionable or considered modern or not.

My art dealers at that time had been selling my non-objective paintings, and there was some apprehension on my part, having to do with that most tedious part of being an artist: The marketing and selling of ones work, and what people might think. I forged ahead believing that good is good, and subject matter, in the end, matters much less than how well the painting is painted.

By making that choice, I opened up a lot of territory. Now that I am back to making non-objective pictures, along with still life and landscape, I find that I have fewer habits or hidden pre-conceptions about picture making. I am enjoying the flow between what could be called “easel painting’ techniques – certain types of brushwork that imply the hand and wrist – and broader, more modern types of paint handling that often hide the hand and employ larger or alternative tools.

I have always worked from nature, but it was not until 1990 – 91 that I chose to focus on landscape. Many times, the horizon would drop out of these pictures and the imagery would be more about the complexity of the ground, with its grasses, sedges, dried twigs, lichens, etc. It seemed, perhaps, to be my way of merging all-over abstraction or non-objective picture making with representation. Since then I’ve also painted still life, and close-ups of tree trunks, that I often think of as “Tree Portraits”. I have always been fascinated with microenvironments and as a child in Northern New Jersey, spent whole summers studying the forest floor and all its inhabitants. The “Tree Pictures” and my particular aesthetic sensibility seem to be, in part, an outgrowth of this long-time fascination.

The poet and writer, Suzanne Shane wrote about my “ground-type” paintings on the occasion of a solo exhibit at CS Schulte Galleries:

“In his recent work, Scott Bennett is not merely painting landscapes; he is reinvigorating landscape. Land forms (rock outcrop, crevice, minutiae of root, leaf, fauna) inspire rather than dictate the composition of these paintings, so that even boulders might float or retreat into pools…..”

“Bennett’s eye is often that of a zoom lens, framing his material so that expansiveness is implied; we have entered a microcosm whose beauty exists in the tension between infinite precision and loose rhythmic pattern. “Alpine Jewel” is a virtual tapestry of undergrowth, the slick stones glimmering, the diversity of the textures enhancing the richness of the whole.”

 Karen Wilkin, in the 2005 catalogue to the exhibition, The Mirror Eye: Greenberg in Syracuse, wrote, “…Bennett’s brand of figuration suggests new readings of his abstract paintings, hinting at previously unimagined allusions to the natural world.”

In the same catalogue, Suzanne Shane continues with this theme, “…Scott Bennett’s abstract work of the late ‘70’s and 80’s provides a foundation, a set of techniques and structures for exploring the complex textures and surfaces that inform his later work. “Habitat”, a painterly weaving of ribbon-like forms through multiple layerings, would evoke the mulch-like fabric of leaf and debris found on the forest floor, but for its pink pastels and party colors. “The Woods” is a strangely primitive dance – the upright collage strips and stick etchings create a volume that is also a dense, impassible thicket. From these two paintings it would be impossible to guess that Bennett is an artist who also produces precise, small-scale botanical drawings of rare plants and flowers.”

With the goal of following my best artistic instincts, which can often fly in the face of present fashion and trend, I remind myself of the conventions in my art-making in a way that allows me to keep the ongoing exploration vigorous. I often look back to earlier paintings to inform my present work, discovering that the saying may be true – that a painter is really painting versions of the same picture throughout his, or her life.

Thinking of Bonnard again, and wondering what if. What if the tradition was lost? The lessons his pictures teach us. The ability to see his painting and have it move us. The ability to see beauty. What would we become? I shudder to think, knowing that it could be. Knowing that it is a delicate balance of forces, and human history does have low periods. In the long view, it’s about maintaining this very human thing that enriches our lives, and is a core part of what redeems us as humans.


Scott Bennett

Jamesville, NY

2011


I would encourage anyone involved in the arts, to read this:

http://aphorismsforartists.com/

It cuts through all the "extrinisc stuff" ( insert alternative definitions of extrinsic stuff, here ).

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