Jenny Bennett, a New Zealander, was born McLellan in 1950, in Hastings, New Zealand, and had a rural childhood.
She later graduated with an M.A. (hons) anthropology, from Otago and Auckland Universities and moved to the city of Whangarei where she still lives.
Bennett began painting in 1976 after the birth of her first child, and has explored a wide range of media and techniques, print making, clay sculpture, puppetry/ performance, flax weaving, pastel work and collage.
Bennett’s first exhibition was in 1976 and continued to show nationally and internationally. She was selected for and won various art awards and commissions.
Bennett has served on arts boards, judging panels and as part of mentoring programmes. Bennett regards overseas travel as important and values viewing great art and architecture history while travelling.
She participated in the 2007 Florence biennale, and the Chianciano Biennale in 2009, 2011 and 2015.
Bennett has also taken part in the Power of Perception and Art Expo in New York. After several years of exploring various themes, mainly landscapes, Bennett says it is exciting to begin a new series of exploring flora, new colours and abstraction work for the London Biennale in 2017.
I paint to make something from nothing: to communicate my visions to others; to put people where I have been, on journeys to remote and beautiful parts of New Zealand. Like Anais Nin, I believe that art (writing, painting, music-----) provides us with the ‘anti toxins’ we need to live.
I paint because I want to record, communicate, recreate, create an idea, experience, object, landscape or and feeling. I believe art whether it be painting, music, drama etc can lift us out of everyday routine. Participation is the key; the doing or the viewing or the listening.
I strive to make beautiful and or challenging work. I enjoy putting things together; colours, shapes, lines; to make order from chaos. This involves decision making and when a work is going well there is a balance between freedom and control as the decision making becomes less conscious and more intuitive.
A finished piece must have a unity; it must say more than a photograph of the same object or landscape. It should also have impact; not necessarily a loud impact. The impact can be just as strong if it quiet, peaceful or still. Colour is important; so is light and dark.
I prefer a palette that is subdued but rich. I like the colour blue, but I use it sparingly as it can be very strong, for example cerulean. I use blues to make greys and greens. They have the qualities of purity, peace and depth. I would like my work to have these qualities too.
Although at times I have used pastels I am now painting in oils on linen. I like painting in oils because of their versatility. They can be opaque or transparent [glazes], and you can move them around on your canvas or wipe them off.
I put on several layers of paint and although this is time consuming it contributes to the richness of colour that I strive for.
I have several themes which tend to recur over time. These include rocks and water, nikau in their natural setting of our New Zealand bush and also some 'transitory' themes which are usually reactive [to some personal events in my life at that time].
Dag O ‘Pegren, Swedish artist, poet art critic and painter selected 27 paintings from the work of 150 artists at the Chianciano Biennale in Tuscany, Some by the same artist. He described 2 paintings by Jenny Bennett as "2 marvellous and sharp oil paintings telling a story about local near shore life;"
Of the work "Beneath Kapowairua, Spirit's Bay" he wrote "I'm stunned and almost ecstatic over the exactness and beauty of her findings and catches of vision – as it was shaped by life itself. And still more- it is."
Scott Pothan, from the Whangarei Art Museum - Te Wharetaonga O Whangarei:
"Artists are renowned for describing, delineating and dissecting their personal physical and psychological environment in transcending ways. Jenny Bennett is one of those visual artists who depict the landscape and its wider environment in concerted series of works which connect to the New Zealand landscape tradition, but also bring an inherent anthropological vigour to her paintings and prints. This detailed investigative, almost forensic approach to all her work marks her unique point of difference. read more...
Rocks, water and verdant Northland bush might be consistent themes, but they are not merely pictorial. They have become very personal journeys. She is not one of those artists of our land forever searching to depict the emblematic. Her eye takes her, and the viewer to the quieter, multi-layered, ordinary moments in our everyday meanderings across Northland. Rocks, for instance fascinate her, and loom both quietly and monumentally in her works. Rock painting has been an ancient tradition for Maori and Bennett brings a contemporary twist in one of her investigative series on this subject.
The tradition of women painters in Whangarei Northland too, is a powerful lineage. Artists from Eleonor Kate Mair (1862-1893) husband of the first pakeha to be born in Whangarei, the famous Capt Gilbert Mair, was among the very first New Zealand artists to study art professionally in Rome in the early 1880's. Whangarei born Beatrix Dobie (1887-1945) departed in 1911 traveling to London to study art at the Slade School of art and Adele Younghusband (1878-1969) studied under George Bell in Melbourne in the late 1930's. The voice and visual language of vigorous women artists who have centered their practice on aspects of our environment, continued throughout the 20th century to the present day with artists like Freda Simmonds, Yvonne Rust, Joan Lindsay, Stephanie Sheehan, Joanne Hardy and Charlotte Fisher.
Artist Jenny Bennett adds a further layer of paint to this shining history of our district's visual culture."
'Art of Northland' group show at The Edge, Aotea Centre Auckland including catalogue.' Elemental' at Compendium Gallery Auckland with Peter Alger and Sue Willis.
Reva's 30th Anniversary Group Show. Each artist had old and new work. Merit award in Gourmet Province Art Awards, Marlborough Society of Arts. Selected for Norsewear Art Award.
Northland Printmakers Exhibition at Porcine Gallery, Whangarei. Selected Northshore City Art Award. Inclusion in 'Who's Who in Visual Arts, Architecture and Design'; this has never been published.
'From Land to Sea' at Morgan Street Gallery with Susan Webb and Sarah McBeath."Artists in Broadway', Coutts Newmarket also in 2004.
Participated in Cialis Promotion at Viaduct Basin for the Americas Cup; follow up exhibition at Heritage Hotel in Auckland. Selected for 'Top Pics', New York Art Magazine No 9 Sept/ Oct.
Invited to Florence Biennale 2005. Group exhibition at the opening of The Artists' Room Gallery in Dunedin.
"Crossing the Gap' scheme; Senior artist and mentor. Art Shed Auction at NSA.
Reva's Group Exhibition. Tukaha Gallery Tutkaka, Whangarei "Passionate Waters" Group Exhibition.
Travelled to Paris, Barcelona Bergamot, Rome. Work sent to Florence Arts Club, Florence, Italy.
Invited to the Florence biennale 2007 November/December 2007 to Italy for the Biennale. Viewed works in Rome and Florence.
Inclusion in Dizionario Enciclopedico Internazionale Moderna e Contemporanea 2008, Casa Editrice Alba Ferrara Italy and web site www.albaeditrice.com
"Beautiful work, very evocative, great skill, power and gentle moods at the same time- viewer becomes part of the experience."
- Carol Worthey, writer composer and visual artist, Hollywood, USA
Merit award Accademia Gentilizia "Il Marzocco" di Firenze [Florence].
Foundation Member on www.discoveredartists.com a new international emerging artists website based in the USA.
Exhibition at Reva's Whangarei, new and old works celebrating 30 years of painting.
Represented in Whangarei by Bank Street Gallery
Served on committee of NSA in late 1970's – early 80's, trustee at NCT for 6 years, member of Arts Promotion Trust board 3 years and at present [2006-] on Creative Communities Assessment Committee
I spent September 2009 at the Biennale Chianciano in Italy. Please read the catalog and watch the video to the right.
Following my participation in the Chianciano Biennale in Italy my work has been selected for an international group showin 2010 at the Gagliardi Gallery, Kings Road, Chelsea, London. www.museodarte.org
This year my work has been featured in a number of books:
"Who's Who in Visual Art 100 artists in Painting, Graphic Arts, Digital Arts, Sculpture 2010-2011" art Domain, Leipzig, Germany.
"Catalogo delle Quotazioni 2010" Casa Editrice, Alba
"Moon Calender 2010" Moon Calender Productions, Aotearoa
As well as a year full of events and exhibitions:
May 7 – 15:
'Biennale in London', Gagliardi Gallery
Featuring group of selected artists from the 2009 Chianciano Biennale, Tuscany
May 8 – 21:
Small works Trevisan International Art Galleria de Marchi Bologna Italy and also the work was in their summer show during August.
The exhibition is curated by Paola Trevisan from Trevisan International and will be held in the Galleria de' Marchi and will run from 8 to 21 May.
Find out more at www.trevisan-international-art.com
May 15 - 29: Cassino Italy 'Legato'
Peace Rose for Cassino
Exhibition to commemorate Battle of Cassino. NZ artists
41 artists are exhibiting in Cassino, Italy to commemorate NZ's involvement with the Battle of Cassino in WW2.
This will be held in Cassino's public library complex in the centre of town with a formal gala opening on May 15.
This will be hosted by the Cassino Commune and attended by the NZ Ambassador.
The art works are centred round the theme of peace and remembrance and are designed to spread the message of world peace.
It has been named Legato, meaning intertwined, like strands of rope giving strength.
"The legacy of war is part of our common heritage. Now it is our task to make lasting peace the focus of that heritage.
Kiwis are remembered for feeding the children, providing clothing, stealing army blankets for the cold" Kay de Latour Scott said. She is a kiwi, based in Italy who is one of the organisers along with Sophie Else, Manager of the NZ Art Guild
May 29th: 'Canvas Project'
Fund raiser Gala evening at the Left Bank Gallery in Westport
Left Bank Art Gallery is the only community regional gallery on the West Coast. It has 100 canvases of 20 x 20cm each and artists are working on these in any medium. This was a fund raiser for the gallery.
July: Northland Craft Trust, Whangarei Create a plate fundraiser
August: 'Fusions' annual fund raising event, Carmel College, Milford, Auckland
October: competition small works, Art on Main Gallery Tirau. Awarded a highly commended.
November 14 - November 21: Work selected for The 2nd BDO Northland Painting and Drawing Award
November 19 – December 24: "Little Windows" small works Hangar Frames and Gallery, Kamo, Whangarei.
November 27 – December 16: Group Exhibition at Pahia, Williams House.
December 10: Group show Tukaha Gallery Tutukaka, Whangarei.
Magma Gallery, Lyttleton, Christchurch, NZ.
March, Lawrence, Central Otago. '150 Pans for 150 artists' Exhibition followed by auction 24 March, to celebrate discovery of gold 150 years ago at Gabriel's Gulley.
May 4 – 11 Izmir Turkey, Izmir Biennal of Arts, guest artist.
1990 - 1999
Solo show French Art Shop Gallery, Auckland.Solo show Art Stop, Glenbervie, Whangarei;' King Rat'series.
"A Packet of Pastels'; Group show Portfolio Gallery and also show at Kaitaia with Sue Willis.
Wins oil/acrylic section Keri Keri Art Awards.
Solo show North Gallery Whangarei. Selected Norsewear Art Award.
Illustrations accepted for Moon calendar and diary.
Exhibition at the Scallop Room NCT with Jeanne Galibert, Sue Willis and Pete Alger "New Resolutions" Wins NZI ArtAward.
Winner Contemporary Art Section, Kaitaia Festival of the Arts. Selected for Norsewear Art Award. New Zealand Gardener Art Award .
'Four Quarters' Exhibition at the Quarry with Sarah McBeath, Rosemary Parcell and Jo Chester. Merit Award Westshore Community Arts Award.
'Mother and Daughter' show [Gwenda McLellan] at the Quarry. Waitakere Licensing Trust Landscape Award.
"Painting the Land" Gallery 16, Helensville with John Horner, Yvonne Rust and others.
"Landscapes" show at Morgan Street Gallery with Sarah McBeath; Motu and Mohaka works
S.O.C.A. group show, nautical theme. Travelled to Italy, [Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome] Switzerland, Holland and London. Viewed artworks, architecture
Artex [ S.O.C.A.] 'Art at a Vineyard' group show Keri Keri.
1980 - 1989
Birth of second son, Barnaby.
Participates in art auction, Devonport Bay Appeal Auction (to save Ngataringa Bay from development).
1983 - 1984
Attends residential summer schools at Parua Bay tutors include Terry Stringer, Carole Shepherd, Robyn Stewart, Stanley Palmer, Manos Nathan and various media such as printmaking, clay sculpture, painting and collage.
Marriage ends and Bennett travels to Italy experiencing age beauty and culture of mainly Northern Italy.
First solo show Outreach, Auckland, Landscapes, pastels "Women at Rest" Series.
Participates in Woman's Work Show at Forum North, Whangarei.
1985 - 1986
Christmas and New Year spent in Canada with family.
Solo show at the Potters Gallery, Whangarei featuring some Italian paintings and terra cotta heads.
Bennett also tutors nursing students in social anthropology at the local community college; revival in interest in anthropology/archaeology –synthesis of women's spirituality back through time. Mother goddess series; pastels and terra cotta figures.
Kennas Vase 1989
Summer School at the Northland Craft Trust; rents a studio. Over several summers attends Summer Schools; clay sculpture, pot making/handbuilding, puppetry and performance, flax weaving, print making, paper making, fabric art, and mask and performance.
Solo show at Reyburn House; 'Ice and Sand' a response to returning from a Canadian winter to a Northland summer. Solo show at Gallery Pacific, Auckland including various works, paintings and pastels.
Bennett also participates in several group shows at the Quarry [NCT}.
Six month screen printing course at Te Kowhai Print Trust and also short course of lithography with Graeme Cornwall.
Solo show Potters Gallery 'In- a Vision'.
Organised and judged Jubilee Exhibition and Competition [Whangarei County Council] with Yvonne Rust and Stephanie Sheehan.
Group show, 'Large Works' North Gallery, Chris Wilkie and others. Solo Show Reva's Pizza Parlour, paintings, pastels, lithographs; still life including some of Kenna's Vase Series.
1989 – 1990
Selected for National Art Awards, Gisborne, Taumaranui, Tokoroa and N.Z Academy of Fine Arts.
1950 - 1979
Jenny Bennett born Jennifer McLellan, Hastings, Hawkes Bay, NZ.
Grows up on a farm and goes to the small country primary school, Argyll East.
1964 - 1967
Bennett goes to boarding school Iona College.
1968 - 1970
Bennett goes to Dunedin and after one year studying for a Diploma of home Science, changes to an Arts Degree B.A which is completed at Auckland University.
1971 – 1973
Bennett completes her studies with M.A (Hons) Anthropology.
She marries Win Bennett and moves to Whangarei where she still lives.
1974 - 1975
With another woman Joy Coxhead, designs and sews clothes at Snarf and Murkle Boutique, Kamo.
Son, Sam is born March 1975.
First formal art lessons with Alan Charlton. Begins to paint.
1977 - 1978
First group exhibitions with Anne Perkinson and Lois Naismith at St Clair Gallery (waterfalls and rocks), and at Northland Society of Arts gallery, Reyburn House (crotch series and landscapes).