In this Viewing Room we focus on Emma Bennett’s new series of nautical paintings in oil on greyboard, drawing on her own thoughts about her practice and its relation to historical, personal and political events.
A portrait of a ship with its beautiful billowing sails may signify strength, freedom and hope while simultaneously reminding us of the pain and suffering that our colonial histories have imposed on others.
Emma Bennett's work is always an emotive and psychological exploration of existence. Throughout her career she has combined memento mori and black monochrome to reflect on life, love and loss. In this series Bennett also meditates on political ideologies. In her own words:
"For this series of work, I’ve drawn on a long history of seascapes and nautical paintings all the way back to the Dutch Golden Age. After all, artists have always been charmed by the timeless beauty of the sea and the way that light is reflected on the ocean. But the subject of the sea also has psychological, social and political complexities and these endlessly recurring themes are as relevant today as they ever were".
'The Bestowed', 2021 Oil on greyboard 21x29.7cm
"The water rises around our small island, and we have separated ourselves and closed our borders. We are in conflict over fishing rights and trading territories and we are allowing desperate people to drown in cold water. A portrait of a ship with its beautiful billowing sails may signify strength, freedom and hope while simultaneously reminding us of the pain and suffering that our colonial histories have imposed on others. A ship represents capture and control as well as voyage and discovery".
'No Encumbrance', 2021 Oil on greyboard 21x29.7cm
"As with many people, I have my own personal relationship with the sea. I enjoy the intimacy of exploring marine life and the pleasure of finding the gifts that are washed up on the shore".
'Crab (downward)', 2021 Oil on greyboard 21x29.7cm
"I don’t really know why I associate my father with the sea as we grew up inland. I suppose my favourite memories of him are from holidays at the coast. There were calm days of salt and sun, and days of running from the seafoam as it crashed over the harbour wall. In our part of the world, the unruly weather could make the sea either fun or fierce. It was always changeable and unpredictable".
'Turn and Return', 2021 Oil on greyboard 21x29.7cm
"My father talked of having done a bit of sailing, but that was before I was born. He hung pictures of ships in our home and this series of paintings was partly inspired by his faded print of the Madagascar East Indiaman, which was a trading ship that was lost at sea in 1853. The ocean gives and it takes away".
'Hope', 2021 Oil on greyboard 21x29.7cm