Claire Benn

Her quiet materials

Solitude.  Stillness. Silence.

Experienced in wilderness landscapes and made visual through cloth, thread and pigments.

 

A piece of cloth is always my starting point, which Anni Albers describes as “the pliable plane”. Uncomplaining of a sharp needle and welcoming lines of thread. Porous enough to absorb pigments, strong enough to support them and tough enough to withstand an electric sander.  Using earth pigments connects me back to the wilderness.  Binding it in acrylic medium or soya milk allows me to make washes that soak through the cloth - cotton canvas, linen or hemp are strong enough to take the weight of the pigment and build up layers to communicate the texture of soil, sand, grit and rock.  But the cloth is also open enough to yield to stitch; rows, lines or scatterings of thread offer a visual trace of time and a literal surface texture that fingertips can feel.

 

These are my quiet materials, used to make art that evokes solitude, stillness and silence.

 

Most of the works in this exhibition are based on the landscape of the Atacama Desert, visited in 2017. It is a varied, multi-layered and primal environment: aggressive, jagged, crumbling, serrated, smooth, undulating, slithery, yielding.  The colour palette is extraordinary: burnt umber, rust orange, yellow ochre, sand, buff, pale mauve, brown and due to the high salt content of the earth, white.  The place has an ancient feel, a sense of the ground being somehow sacred.

 

Water is also represented; the lack of it in the form of dry river beds or salt pans and an excess caused by abnormal weather.  Clear, bright, warm mornings. Benign and fluffy clouds at lunchtime.  By mid-afternoon, murderously grey clouds unleashed their load causing the river (normally a trickle) to flood.  This unsettled weather was welcome as the varying light constantly changed the landscape, offering me more and more to contemplate and draw inspiration from.

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