Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

3rd November 2016

TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL BENNETT

michael Bennett. Bird series; blue tarn 1987-89

A tale of two painters

Some years ago two painters went to stay with friends in Provence. A few weeks after their return I went to their house for supper and found June bouncing with enthusiasm. She couldn't wait to show me to her studio which was throbbing with colour; twisted olive groves, sunflowers  standing to attention in military ranks, poppies and lavender fields with Mont Ventoux often making an appearance as a backdrop to this jostling, competitive crowd.  I came downstairs, with the distinct smell of lavender in my nose.

Michael as usual quietly looked on at supper as June and I chattered away

'Did you get any painting done Michae'l I asked casually in a pause in the  conversation.

He shrugged.

June answered for him with light hearted.Indignation.

‘It was so hot in those fields I nearly melted,’ she said as she glanced across at her husband, ‘and he just sat under a tree in the shade dozing. He didn’t even do a sketch.’

Michael nodded agreement, a slight smile playing on his lips.

After a good six months possibly much longer I was invited into his studio upstairs. It was full of half finished canvasses using the colours and shapes that were unmistakably Provencal - swathes of  golden fields, interlocking shapes of bright blue and yellow with ghosrly figures emerging from the thick impasto, a ribbon of meditterranean blue above a high horizon, a pale pink or a searing orange circle of sun.  The tree of possibilities - his shady protective  tree -  was there too. His day dreams which had been silently developing had now materialised and his thoughts were laid bare on the canvas. Abstract bird shapes, children chasing them. Everything had been processed and edited down to essentials.

June's paintings are quick, impulsive, immediate and Michael's are deep, slow, considered. They are part of the dream world he inhabited which he could never explain in words and was as elusive as the bird, his muse, who hovered in the mists and thick texture of his work.

I was at Michael Bennett's funeral yesterday. He had been hospitalized since a stroke last May doggedly planning to return to his studio which we all  heart-breakingly knew wasn’t going to happen. When I last saw him almost two weeks ago lying peacefully still in hospital I I knew he was at last in his dream valley  Maybe he had caught the muse he so often pursued, grasped it in his outstretched hands enabling him to paint the perfect painting he so often dreamed about.

 

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