Bentham again looks to Picasso for a directness of construction, and economy of means and material. He continues to draw inspiration from African sculpture, here masks in particular. Being surprisingly ‘big’ adds to their incongruity. This quality lends itself to the potential of enlargement to a public scale.
In the Still Life series, Bentham creates assemblages in an intimate scale from utilitarian and ornamental brass and bronze. Decorative figures and vessels are eloquently combined with planes and rods, transcending the materials’ original purposes and inspiring new meaning. Just as a traditional still life subject has a front and a back, Bentham’s sculptures are defined in this way and each side is equally compelling. While remaining largely abstract, the sculptures contain certain shapes or rhythms that are reminiscent of a particular historical artist’s work, as referenced in his titles.
Each composition is unique and occupies its own space – similar to how a still life becomes its own microcosm, established within a specific time and place. I often reference a historic artist’s work by emphasizing a certain motif that feels familiar. It is a way of expressing my gratitude for their influence on my work, and for their contribution to the ‘onward’ of art, in which I remain immersed.Douglas Bentham
Douglas Bentham’s new Cupboards series, in rich, galvanized plate steel, is reminiscent in form to the antique handmade furniture the artist has collected over decades. Held within the vitrine-like sections is an assembly of eccentric linear drawing comprised of forgings, ancient hand tools and encrusted foundry castoffs. A mirroring effect is created as the viewer’s eye moves from section to section to the whole.
As I began working on this series, I recognized the possibilities of creating bold, linear forms with a certain primitive feel, which could become containers for coloured planar inserts of a painterly nature. One quality of the sculptures that repeatedly emerged was a fullness, at once both generous and casual, that reminded me of my experiences visiting Spain, of its vivid landscape, people and culture, and of the remarkable artists whose voices we still hear.
To introduce colour and texture to the work, this new series utilizes resawn hardwoods as a way of softening the surfaces beyond the expectations allowed with metals.
Douglas Bentham incorporates random scraps of metal into form and framework and skeletal structure, similar to the evolution of the human body—its bits of meteorite, mud, and water. The wonder is that, in both the human body and Bentham sculptures, unrelated pieces are intricately fitted together to work in striking unity. Bentham sculptures reveal the patterns in which these scattered elements were meant to join. These forms are their story.Earle Toppings, March 2010
Although the artist plans to show the Centurions as a group eventually, the Tablets represents Bentham’s first full-fledged museum installation. These tablet-scaled works hark back to the Doors, where each work’s own materiality, its scale and flux of front/back, back/front offers a kind of psychological interior in the viewer’s imagination.
The twenty-seven sculptures are to be displayed on identical plinths in staggered rows, offering viewers an opportunity to walk among them at will, in either a rectangular or diagonal orientation.
The sculptures, then, take their shape around a hidden presence. Like armour, they ward off a grasping gaze. Like reliquaries, they enshrine an unseen holy thing, an unnameable beauty within.Timothy Long