Art - Tom Benjamin

“Some people might suggest,” I offer mischievously to the local painter Tom Benjamin, whose ‘New Paintings’ Exhibition is currently up at the HQ Gallery, “that your paintings have been uninformed by the artistic movements of the last 100 years. What would you say to them?”

Tom was brought up in Plumpton and he almost exclusively paints local scenes in oils on canvas, on the spot. He has a real sense of the moods of nature, which you can read between the shadows of his work. Catching the glint in my eye, he reacts with a laugh. “I don’t think I’m uninformed by it,” he says. “I guess that because I like to work in an intuitive way very quickly then the tradition of making a painting from a particular viewpoint works well for me. I could formulise or abstract or tilt things, but I find that rearranging gets in the way of the experience. Tom Wolfe said this of realism: it’s such a powerful tool -like electricity - that once it was discovered, it would be madness not to use it. And the 21st century still has a number of strong representational painters - like Lucien Freud, like Allan Banks, like Frank Auerbach. It’s not a tradition that’s by any means dead - it’s still capable of producing very powerful work.”

We are talking in the gallery, and his moody, expressive paintings are hanging all around us. “Auerbach,” he continues, “talks about how the world of forms is extraordinary, but how many people make it pedestrian by attaching meanings which are extraneous to it. I like to transmit the sense of being overwhelmed or surprised by the subject, by the quality of the relationship of space and light. It’s the strength of my emotional response which makes the painting.”

Tom Benjamin: “rearranging reality gets in the way of the experience”