SARAH BALL 'BERTILLON'
2/8 - 4/9
‘Bertillon’ is a continuation of Sarah Ball’s quest to reveal the human truth of her anonymous protagonists. In this new collection of paintings, which vary in scale from small studies to larger-than-life portraits, Ball asserts but also tests the notion that we all somehow ‘fit' together, bound by a kindred connection that makes us human. In this case, the viewer is required to consider this problematic idea more closely as Ball has shifted the goal posts, reaching further towards the suspicion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and how prejudice leads to assumption about people, through assessing appearance.
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“We carry the genes and the culture of our ancestors, and what we think about them shapes what we think of ourselves, and how we make sense of our time and place. Are these good times, bad times, interesting times? We rely on history to tell us. History and science too, help us put our lives in context. But if we want to meet the dead looking alive, we turn to art… in imagination we chase the dead, shouting, “Come back!”... we sense that the dead have a vital force still – they have something to tell us... I don’t claim we can hear the past or see it. But we can listen and look.This is how we live in the world: romancing... For many years we have been concerned with de-centering the grand narrative. We have become romantic about the rootless, the broken, those without a voice and sceptical about great men, dismissive of heroes. That’s how our enquiry into human drama has evolved: first the gods go, and then the heroes, and then we are left with our grubby, compromised selves.” 1
I am an introvert. At least, I am according to the American journalist who interviewed me prior to a recent solo exhibition in Dallas. Confronted by a deadline and under pressure to deliver insightful column inches for an audience, she opted to write a portrait of a recognisable and well-understood type – a quiet and solitary English female artist. The word introvert is derived from the Latin ‘introvertere’ (intro ‘to the inside’ and vertere ‘to turn’) and in the article I am portrayed as a driven loner, who walks the ancient landscapes of West Penwith, eats soups in winter, salads in summer: the solitary artist in her Cornish studio. As with all clichés – it holds some truth I understand this need to catergorize, because it underscores the inquiry that has been driving my work for the last few years: the grouping of people and the naming and identification of types.
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ONLINE CATALOGUE (click below)
EXHIBITION VIDEO TOUR
ARTIST INTERVIEW FILM
(Exhibition Introduction continued)
Echoing the immersive qualities of Chiesa di San Gallo; low-lit, contemplative spaces at Anima-Mundi will give visitors who can’t make it to Venice a chance to consider Benney’s extraordinary work alongside the artists' assertion that "art can promote an understanding between disparate ideologies and engagement in a shared spiritual dialogue.”
‘Speaking in Tongues’ (the original painting and holophonic sound installation) has been acquired as part of a public collection in the USA, so this release of archival quality silver prints gives collectors an opportunity to invest in this prominent exhibition, as highlighted by Catherine Milner in the Financial Times 'How To Spend It' feature in her noteworthy picks from the Biennale: In a church just off St Mark’s, British artist Paul Benney has created remarkable painting-cum-audio-installation 'Speaking in Tongues', which depicts twelve of the artists contemporaries describing significant spiritual moments in their lives. He seeks to demonstrate that a singular piece of art can promote an understanding between disparate ideologies and engagement in a shared spiritual dialogue. At first and from afar the viewer encounters a quiet murmuring reminiscent of prayer or confession. As the visitor moves around the exhibition space the murmuring is interrupted; through the use of holophonic sound focusing technology, by the clearly discernible monologue of each subject; the effect being as though the individual voices are uncannily experienced as aural hallucinations.
The ‘Reliquary’ series, consisting of two tryptics, will appear alongside ‘Speaking In Tongues’ and form an important part of this installation. They re-emphasize the spiritual metaphor of the flame as a representation of the human spirit.
Paul Benney is a British artist born in London, England in 1959. He currently lives and works from studios in London and Suffolk.
Benney rose to international prominence as a member of the Soho and East Village Neo-Expressionist group, whilst living and working in New York City in the 1980s where he worked and exhibited alongside peers Marylyn Minter, Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Wojnarovicz among the many other others who made up the exploding 80s NY art scene. Despite living and working in this extraordinary environment Benney’s painting maintained a uniquely English sensibility.
Paul Benney is a multi-disciplined artist whose oeuvre moves beyond clear and definitive categorization although his work could be seen to continue the strong tradition of ‘British Mysticism’ championed by the likes of Samuel Palmer and William Blake. Clearly, the primary mode of expression is paint, which he handles with profound technical dexterity, but to add to this he is also a goldsmith (skills learned from his father, the celebrated goldsmith Gerald Benney), a sculptor, film maker, a musician and also a perfumer, all of which he is able to carry out with notable esoteric ability and accomplishment. He is a polymath. Marcus Aurelius once stated that: “Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.” But the tangibility of technique is only one face; the artist must also have a passion to use the senses to delve into the unsolved.
For the past thirty years Paul Benney has worked both in the United States and United Kingdom. His paintings are notably represented in a plethora of public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Brooklyn Museum, The National Gallery of Australia and The National Portrait Gallery in London, The Royal Collection and The Eli Broad Foundation. He has exhibited in eight BP Portrait Award Exhibitions and twice won the BP Visitors’ Choice Award. Benney's portrait subjects have included HM Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Mick Jagger, John Paul Getty III, 7th Marquess of Bath, The State Portrait for Israel, Lord Rothschild, as well as Ben Barnes for the portrait in the feature film ‘A Portrait of Dorian Grey’ in 2008. Benney was invited to be resident artist at Somerset House in 2010. During his five year residency he held the exhibition ‘Night Paintings’ in 2012 which explored themes that deal more with the subconscious and metaphysical world and drew over 15,000 visitors. In 2017 his epic painting and holosonic sound installation ‘Speaking in Tongues’ was a prominent feature of the Venice Biennale, located at Chiesa San Gallo, just off St Marks’s Square. The paintings from ‘Speaking In Tongues’ were subsequently purchased by a significant US art foundation based in California for permanent exhibition. Paintings are held in multiple collections worldwide. Paul Benney is represented by Anima-Mundi.