The dynamic paintings of new South Surrey resident Frank Bennett stand out in a field that – locally at least – still tends to be dominated by more staid representational landscapes and floral studies.
His gleeful, highly stylized acrylics of figurative and landscape subjects revel in bright colours reminiscent of ’60s pop and commercial art, and geometric shapes that show influences of early 20th century artist Paul Klee – whose work Bennett acknowledges he enjoys – as well as elements of the cubist, expressionist and surrealist schools that emerged in the same period.
Even before he moved to the Peninsula last year, after 35 years in New Westminster, Bennett was gaining attention in Surrey arts circles – his canvas ‘Sales Team,’ a whimsical collection of clownish faces, won an honourable mention in the Arts 2012 group show held by the Arts Council of Surrey.
Bennett’s style will be highlighted in his first solo show here – a collection of recent paintings on display at Semiahmoo Library starting this week and throughout September.
Stylization has always been an aspect of his work since the days when he was a student at the Vancouver Art School (now Emily Carr), he said.
“I’ve always enjoyed figurative work; enjoyed working with colours and shapes and forms,” he said.
“Jack Shadbolt, who was my teacher at one time, said ‘you’re always searching.’ And that’s true of artists in whatever medium – whether it’s painting, or writing, or music – you’re always searching for something.”
Other former instructors who were influential included Don Jarvis and Peter Aspell, he said.
Retired from a career in newspaper advertising sales – and an empty nester; he and wife Marilyn have two grown sons and one grandchild – Bennett said he feels having the time to work daily in his home studio has contributed to a steady improvement in his painting skills.
“Right now I’m doing more work than I ever did before, and I think it’s becoming more meaningful and working better,” he said.
“Of course the problem every artist has is sitting down at that canvas and wondering what’s going to happen next. Right now I have an idea I’d like to paint a lady waiting at a bus stop. That’s going around in my mind and one of these days I’m going to sit down and start working with shapes and colours and see what happens.”
Bennett, who also blends pen and ink with acrylics, said he usually does a lot of preliminary drawings before he finds the ideas he wants to include in a painting.
Once he starts the actual painting – his works are usually no larger than a 24 by 30-inch canvas – “on average it takes me about a week,” he said.
“Sometimes a thousand things can be going through your head,” he added.
Semiahmoo Library is located at 1815 152 Street, opening hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.