Trudy Benson

Flamboyant, haphazard canvases by an archetypal abstract painter.

Trudy Benson stood in her studio surrounded by four large paintings
large rectangular painting balanced in the artist's studio of colour blocks and lines
Colours of paint on a palette with paintbrushes on top of it
6 images

Trudy Benson was born in 1985 in Richmond, Virginia, and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Accolades

After moving to New York Benson's practice caught the attention of the city's Foundation for the Arts, who awarded her a sought-after painting fellowship. She was also nominated for the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2014.

Collections

Work featured in collections including the Portland Museum of Artl the Aïshti Foundation, Lebanon; Saatchi Gallery, London and the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art.

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Exhibitions

Practice overview

Benson’s paintings have a refreshingly determined viewpoint: the artist’s hand is more powerful than the digital image. Her works combine aesthetics from early image software like Microsoft Paint, with her hand-made abstraction. Her loud painterly style hinges on layer upon layer of texture, which simultaneously harmonise and fight against each other. Sumptuously thick oil paint is squeezed directly out of the tube and slapped across her canvases, and odd colour combinations mix together. Crisp edges of irregular shapes contrast against loose, messy patterning that references the childlike essence of naïve painting, as well as the purposeful chaos of post-war abstraction. In an age where the consumption of visual culture is predominantly via the flat plane of digital imagery, the excessive texture and contrast in Benson’s paintings is a fervent call to experience art in person.

Benson’s paintings push colour and composition to their extremes. Night Creatures (2017) is dominated by purple-tinged, red hues, and royal blue Matisse-esque cut-out shapes. Its extravagant cacophony of colour is immediately enticing. Spray-painted patches of muddy yellows and oranges dissolve into the busy canvas and two simple lines of Benson’s signature squeeze slice across the work, reminiscent of Lucio Fontana’s iconic cut canvases. On the one hand, the shapes are clean, contrasting and graphically considered yet, on the other, they bleed into their surroundings and move back and forth within the image. This creates an unlikely depth in the painting that bends perception and, like an optical illusion, has the power to morph and change its form.

The layers in Benson’s paintings are records of their own process. Leaving her works to dry between each section, the shapes and colours in Benson’s canvases are distinctly separated, yet together, are decidedly complete. Palette knives, brushes, masking tape, rollers, spray-paint, oil, acrylic, and ink map Benson’s intuitive process onto the surface. Proudly embracing accidents, each distinct mark is a testament to an experiment, mistake or grand cover-up that purposefully draws attention to its own imperfection. For this reason, there is a clumsy beauty and endearing self-consciousness in Benson’s work that is paired with her fiercely informed handling of paint and form. Thus, the works present a bold understanding of image-making that has a deep trust in itself. The playful determination and transparent process of Benson’s practice offers a compelling case for the physicality of art, shedding light on the timeless power of exuberant, complex abstraction.

“I think about painting as a series of layers, which never really touch, but influence each other.”Trudy Benson