In the Studio
Trudy Benson
Brooklyn, New York

Trudy Benson’s flamboyant abstract paintings have a haphazard beauty. Her works champion the dynamic texture of paint and test the limits of form and colour. 

Images by Bella Newman

Benson’s paintings have a refreshingly determined viewpoint. She incorporates mark-making evocative of early image software like Microsoft Paint to triumph the physicality of the artist’s brush over the digital image. Her loud abstraction hinges on layer upon layer of texture that simultaneously harmonise and fight against each other. She mixes odd combinations of colours, some that appear selected from a computer toolbar with others in hues that are difficult to digitally replicate. Sumptuously thick oil paint squeezed directly out of the tube is slapped across thin sweeps of flat colour, The sharp edges of irregular shapes contrast against loose, messy patterning that references the childlike essence of naïve painting and the purposeful chaos of post-war abstraction. In an age where the consumption of visual culture is predominantly conducted through the flat plane of digital imagery, excessive texture and contrast in Benson’s paintings represent a fervent call to experience art in person.

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

Benson’s paintings push colour, composition, background and foreground to their extremes. Night Creatures, painted in 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 history and 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 and exposes the timeless power of exuberant, complex abstraction.

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