Classical still life updated as Chapter and Emma Bennett present Thief of Time

By Emily Beeson | 08 May 2013

Exhibition preview: Emma Bennett: Thief of Time, Chapter, Cardiff, until July 7 2013

A painting of a rabbit and grapes
© Emma Bennett, 2013
Welsh artist Emma Bennett’s hauntingly beautiful paintings contemplate human frailty, our place in the cosmos and the nature of the image suspended in time.

Also commissioned by Chapter as part of the Cardiff International Festival of Photography, Diffusion, taking place this month (read our Preview), the exhibition centres on classical themes of the organic and existential in a modern context.

Appropriating imagery from historical Dutch and Italian painting, Bennett’s pieces depict perfect floral bouquets, ripened fruit, and the lifeless bodies of game, echoing the historical schools of still life painting.

Bennett’s style and allegorical compositions evoke painters like Caravaggio and artists from the Flemish school. But the definitive lack of backdrop gives her paintings a strange, almost New Age energy that speaks of uncertainty and spiritual potential.

The artist says that an awareness of Susan Sontag’s take on photography has influenced her work; the idea that taking a photograph captures its subject, containing that moment of life and storing it for the future.

It makes sense then that Bennett’s work should be included in a festival of photography, given that her paintings communicate the historical context of the still-life image.

In her latest pieces, Bennett considers the fleeting nature of visual experience, memory and the overwhelming desire to make experiences more permanent. She references still-life photographers such as Roger Fenton and Wolfgang Tillmans along the way.

This exhibition poignantly reflects a history of skilled yet fruitless attempts to prevent the passing of time by confining a single moment within an artificial image and how, since the time of the Dutch masters, little has changed.

  • Open 12pm-6pm (8pm Thursday-Saturday, closed Monday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @chaptergallery.

Visit Emily Beeson's blog and follow her on Twitter
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