This Page is:

FREE EDITION – SHIRLEY BENNETTS

 

SHIRLEY BENNETTS

 

·        REVIEW OF EDITION TWO

 

·        PURCHASE FUTURE EDITIONS.

 

RETURN TO CONTENTS PAGE:

 

           

 

HOME

ABOUT REFLECTIVE BUBBLE

OTHER EDITIONS

MY ACCOUNT

STORE

CONTACT US

 

 

Shirley Catherine Bennetts attended her first art class at the age of 11 when she began studying with Reg Russom and continued her art education through Technical College and, later, with the Royal Art Society Art School Sydney.

 

Shirley was a professional artist and exhibited widely (solo and group exhibitions) within Australia and overseas.

She became recognised as an international miniatures artist but she also painted 'big' in all mediums.

 

She taught art and passed on her love and passion for her chosen field for almost three decades.

 

Generations of artists have moved through her classes listening to her quiet, gentle and patient recommendations.

 

 

Shirley Catherine Bennetts

 

She was a lovely, petite lady who stood less than five feet tall. She had a heart of gold and her love of art and her love of people, combined with her ready and ‘twisted’ sense of humour, turned many of her art students into close friends. She was in demand as a teacher and loved the process of sharing her love of art with others. She gave unconditionally in all things and challenged her students to ‘grow’ in their own style.

 

With a quick wit and a quick mind, she was nobody’s fool. Shirley resisted anyone who tried to ‘put her into a box’ – to categorise her. She had a will of iron when it came to the control of her own Art Career. ‘She did it her way’.

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright for all paintings displayed is held by the estate of Shirley Bennetts.

 

All rights are reserved.

 

 

 

WILLIAMS RIVER NSW 600x440mm

OIL ON BOARD

The ‘Art World’ wanted her to specialize and develop ‘her style’ in one particular medium but Shirley loved drawing and painting in all of its forms and resisted the push toward specialisation. Art was her meditation and her need. When she traveled, she traveled with a pencil and notebook and recorded people and places for future paintings.

 

She was comfortable creating classic oils like WILLIAMS RIVER NSW and NIGHT EYES and thoroughly enjoyed working ‘Big’. It was almost impossible for her, though, to create an artwork of her beloved Australian bush (and other themes) without the presence of spirits. They were everywhere and she loved the spirituality of her bush home.

 

 

NIGHT EYES 445x420mm

OIL ON BOARD

 

WALTZING MATILDA 900x600mm

OIL ON BOARD

She had lived alone (with her pets) on her NSW property since her husband (Alan) had died and she was very comfortable with her own company and with her bush and its inhabitants …and its deep soul.

 

Another ‘Big’ work, WALTZING MATILDA depicted the Banjo Paterson story, acted out, of course, by the spirits of the story …under a threatening Australian sky. THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN was a complete flight of fantasy inspired by JRR Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT. The Hobbit-style spirit can be seen weaving a path under and through and out of the magic mountain.

 

THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 900x600mm

ENAMEL ON BOARD

 

AMISH MAN 90x110MM

OIL ON BOARD

 

Concurrently with her ‘big’ work, Shirley was recognised internationally for her Miniature Artworks. She worked with Oil on Board (as with the AMISH MAN and MATILDA) but particularly loved the translucence of Water Colours on Ivorine (a man-made product), as with BEN.

 

She was, for a time, a member of the Australian Society of Miniature Art and exhibited successfully overseas. The difficulty and costs of entering competitions soon soured the experiences though, particularly for a person who didn’t feel the need to have her work judged. I remember her being particularly annoyed at one stage when Customs had confiscated her art work because the declaration read ‘Ivorine’ and they had incorrectly assumed that the material was ‘Ivory’.

 

BEN 90x130MM - WATER COLOUR ON IVORINE (a man-made product)

 

MATILDA 105x105MM

OIL ON BOARD

 

Shirley’s portrait work usually included a hat. She loved people and studied their faces and their adornments. Hats became a theme in her art.

 

She often painted to music and the flow of the music showed in the flow of her subjects – somewhere between people and spirits. Musical instruments can be found in her paintings.

 

Clowns were also common in her work. Looking at the detail of one of her paintings would often reward the viewer with sites of clowns and spirits and hats and faces throughout the work.

 

This facet of her work led to some consternation on the part of Gallery owners and others who wanted to give Shirley’s Artwork more direction and to move her away from these whimsical figures.

 

CHAPEL DOOR

Mixed Media on Paper

 

SYDNEY DOWN UNDER

Mixed Media on Paper

 

One such person explained to Shirley that she shouldn’t be painting clowns and spirits and, during the conversation, also complained about artists who painted cliché-type subjects like the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Shirley hurried home to paint SYDNEY DOWN UNDER so that she could submit it to that gallery as part of her next exhibition. (Is that clown winking? Are they both grinning too broadly? Is that spirit coming down from the bridge too fast?) She was very much in charge of her own destiny.

 

Another theme, not as often utilised, was an open door. Shirley saw great significance in being on a threshold – about to enter or about to depart. Both held new possibilities and a sense of the unknown. She was not a timid person and she saw a challenge or a change as an offer of new potential. This sense of ‘unknown’ was beautifully conveyed in BACK OF BOURKE NSW.

 

 

 

BACK OF BOURKE NSW

Mixed Media on Paper

 

MAGNOLIA

 

Shirley liked to challenge her viewer with her paintings. She spoke of ‘things’ in her paintings having been specifically put there as a challenge. I wish I could explain this better! When I asked her to give me an example of what she was talking about, she only gave me one of those oft-used cheeky smiles that said “I know and now it’s up to you to find out”.

 

Years later, maybe she gave me a hint (realizing that I can be slow sometimes). She entered a painting into a competition with the theme of ‘Pub Culture’. Shirley didn’t win. Her work usually takes more than looking. You have to look deep and think. Shirley described her image of ‘Pub Culture’ along the lines of a room – usually with a painting of a nude above the bar – with revelers and musicians. Strangers are meeting wearing their masks (as we all do) while others are being freed as they imbibe in the alcohol. (You have to search for the beautifully drawn nude!)

 

 

 

PUB CULTURE

Mixed Media on Paper

 

 

 

AUSSIE POST OFFICE -1810

240x150mm

Mixed Media on Paper

 

Shirley’s depth of art knowledge was immensely impressive. On a number of occasions, she set up slide nights for her students where she showed slides of ‘the Masters’ and we discussed techniques and flaws and why that painting worked well and others did not. She had a very definite opinion on some of the unfinished work and rough-out work that was on display for no other reason than because it was painted or drawn by a person with a ‘name’.

 

Shirley regularly burnt work of hers that she wasn’t happy with. No-one was going to embarrass her by hanging that work after she was gone. Given that she had warning of her end (one of the rare positives of Cancer), I imagine that there would have been bonfires blazing on her property in her last months.

 

AUTUMN LEAVES 230x130mm

Mixed Media on Paper

 

CELLO

 

I remember a time when she offered my Daughter (for her Birthday) the choice of a painting - or she would create one based on my Daughter’s chosen theme. As it turned out, the choice was easy. My Daughter had seen CELLO and loved it. We didn’t know the name of it and we were trying to describe it to Shirley.

 

Shirley’s face dropped when she apparently understood which painting we were describing. A little embarrassed, she explained: “Oh, I went off that. I burnt it.”  Another painting was chosen and my Daughter was obviously very happy with her present.

 

We were never certain, however, if we and Shirley had been talking about the same painting. In the years that followed, though, we never saw CELLO again and I think the only version in existence now is the photo on my computer. Nothing was staying to be hung unless Shirley was happy with it!

 

 

 

 

 

BUTTAI MEMORY 130x230mm

Mixed Media on Paper

 

MOON OVER NOBBYS – 1892

Mixed Media on Paper

 

Shirley’s love of Miniature work led her to study and create Miniature books. To my embarrassment now, I have to admit that when she first, excitedly, read the beginning of one of her stories to me, I really didn’t understand what she was on about. She was excited about the creative writing process and didn’t explain herself very well (I think). I uttered some supportive positive words (fortunately) and she carried on to create these miniature treasures.

 

The cover and an extracted page of two of her Miniature Books (THE TALE OF IF and A STRANGE EVENT) are shown below.

 

1988- No92 SCOTT ST

Mixed Media on Paper

 

BLUE MOON 240x150mm

Mixed Media on Paper

 

A small band of Shirley’s students, over the course of a number of years, just kept coming back to Shirley’s Monthly Art Lessons. We all became very close friends. One day, we sat down to start the lesson and Shirley announced “I’m not teaching you guys anymore. From now on we are an Art Group.” We continued to meet monthly. We exhibited together. We tried to find a name for the group and pretty well failed …until we came to Pende Artists – more out of desperation than any real consensus.

 

We were blessed. We friends enjoyed each other’s company and shared the creative process and learnt from a wonderful Mentor and a magnificent artist.

 

Usually in an article like this I would write the date of Shirley’s death (Sunday 3rd October 2010) and the date of Shirley’s birth. I don’t know that. Only her family would know that. Shirley didn’t want people to know her age – not for any reason that was related to vanity, but simply because she didn’t want people to treat her as if she was a particular age.

 

Did I tell you she didn’t want anyone to categorise her?

 

MISTY MORNING 240x150mm

Mixed Media on Paper

 

MINIATURE BOOK – THE TALE OF IF

 

 

MINIATURE BOOK – A STRANGE EVENT

 

 

 

 

RETURN TO CONTENTS PAGE