Eye to Image
2 May to 2 August 2015
Gallery 21 Royal Albert Memorial Museum
This was the first major exhibition dedicated to this Devon-based artist’s search for a harmonious relationship between form, colour and light. Paintings and drawings spanning four decades trace the development of his singular technique. The works all originate from three-dimensional forms constructed from various materials such as paper and card or wire and wood. Vibrant shapes of light are then projected onto these forms creating unexpected spaces and colours, tones and shadows. Changed lighting transforms the object’s appearance allowing the creation of further paintings and drawings from a single form.
Born in 1938, Benedict studied at Christ’s Hospital School in West Sussex then at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1958 until 1960. After ten years teaching in art schools, he was able to devote all his time to painting. He built his own studio and gallery in the Chiltern Hills, holding exhibitions of his new work every two years. The core of Benedict’s work since 1980 has centred on developing a process of making three dimensional structures based on ideas principally drawn from the landscape and architecture of the Italian Renaissance. These structures become the starting point for his paintings.
He concluded a parallel and successful career in portraiture in 2001 when he moved to Devon. Notable commissions include HRH the Prince of Wales for the Fishmongers’ company, Sir Colin Davis, Lord Hailsham, Lord Simon for BP and Sir Peter Burt for the Bank of Scotland. His publications are: Painting Children, for the Herbert Press 1993, Benedict Rubbra, paintings 1958-1998, published for his sixtieth birthday retrospective exhibition at the Buckinghamshire Art Gallery and County Museum, and Benedict Rubbra Point of Balance, for Halstar publications in 2008. His paintings can be seen in private and public collections in this country and in Italy.
Benedict in his own words
“The essential concerns that underlie my work are the cyclical processes that link genesis, decay and regeneration. From early youth to maturity I have been acutely aware of art’s kinship with nature and see all of us as part of the natural cycle and the process of growth.
“In mid career, dissatisfied with the conventional ways of depicting space, I began to construct my own three-dimensional forms in which my subconscious and chaotic ideas could develop. These constructions became subjects for me to paint, and through the process of painting them I was able to take control over my chaotic and creative ideas. I had found my personal voice, allowing the cell of an idea to develop as if it had a life of its own. The challenge was to be in control and yet be in a state where the subconscious is given free range.
“Connected to my awareness of the power of growth in nature I can trace a line back to my early visits to Florence. The impact of seeing the paintings of Fra Angelico and the work of Donatello and Brunelleschi has remained deep inside me. My work is the search for an answer to the mystery of their ability to achieve a perfect balance between colour and form and between control and freedom with timeless emotional strength.”
Exhibition Curator Deborah Wood on Benedict’s Art
“Rubbra has enjoyed a long and successful career and has gained a wide and loyal following. He has a unique talent; a superb draughtsman and fine artist whose work resonates with the viewer on so many levels. He manages, with enormous skill and patience, to depict sound, movement, light and atmosphere through the single application of oil paint to canvas. We immediately understand the mood of a painting; we feel his sensitivity; his love of nature and his desire to create order out of chaos. These wonderful paintings are to be enjoyed at leisure and this is an opportunity to see them in a particularly elegant and lovely gallery.”