Julie Bennett


Julie Bennett takes  modern Icons of contemporary culture and translates  the void of celebrity  onto the surface of the canvas.

Building on the traditions of portraiture, I re-appropriate mass-mediated images into gestural paintings. Drawn from a range of popular cultural sources including fashion magazines, my work critically engages with the discourse surrounding the cult of celebrity in contemporary society. I look at the effect of fame by considering the anonymous faces surrounding the celebrity. This might be the individual in a crowd or the model advertising a celebrated branded product. The unknown person is elevated from the mundane to the status of icon through paint. In only superficially adhering to the photographic source, I allow the randomness of the brush strokes to bring out the personality of the subject that was superfluous to the intentions of the mediated image that they were drawn from. I consider the mutual dependency of celebrated and celebrator; without the desire of the crowd the celebrity could not function, but similarly the celebrator is released momentarily from the mundane.

Thick brush marks and accidental drips give my work an unpredictable edge in creating the human face. Heightened colours are used to differentiate the paintings from the flat images that serve as the source material, giving them an emotional charge. Similarly toTai-Shan Schierenberg, I enjoy the randomness that the physicality of paint presents in bringing out the hidden features of a person, allowing endless possibilities of creating psychologically penetrating interpretations. I am influenced by the uncomplicated and intuitive use of paint by Marlene Dumas and Chantal Joffe. My work builds on this by using the immediacy of gesture to convey the ephemeral nature of fame.

My research has recently expanded to incorporate video. Using a straightforward style inspired by Forsyth and Pollard, I am examining whether the media’s obsession with celebrity represents a common aspiration in society for fame or feeding of a voyeuristic appetite.

British artist Julie Bennett creates distinctive gestural paintings to critically engage with the discourse surrounding the cult of celebrity in contemporary society. Bennett looks at the effect of fame, glamour and beauty through the re-appropriation of mass-mediated images of anonymous faces surrounding celebrities. She translates every day faces into bold, aspirational multi-layered works of art.

The subject matter of her portraits might be the individual in a crowd or the model advertising a celebrated branded product. The unknown person is elevated from the mundane to the status of icon through paint. In only superficially adhering to the photographic source, she allows the randomness of the brush strokes to bring out the personality of the subject. A personality that was superfluous to the intentions of the mediated image from which they were drawn from.

Oil, gloss, acrylic paint and gestural brushwork are used as part of her transformation process. Paint and subject become one as these highly personal interpretations emerge out of the influence of the superficiality of mass culture.

Bennett has featured in various publications ranging from The Guardian (2011), The Independent, (2008), The Standard (2007), Artist and Illustrated Magazine (2007) to Stylist (2011).

Bennett has exhibited solo and in various group exhibitions. National exhibitions include those at Victoria and Albert Museum (2010), Sartorial Gallery (2009), Saatchi online (2008) and Transition Gallery (2008).

These striking portrait paintings by Julie Bennett have become a familiar sight in London’s contemporary art scene.