Celebrated British artist Paul Benney, a resident artist of Somerset House, brings his Night Paintings to the hidden passageways underneath its fountain courtyard for the first exhibition of its kind in the unique space.
Curated by Flora Fairbairn, the exhibition includes more than 25 paintings, comprised of past and new works created over the duration of the artist’s tenure as a resident artist. The exhibition will be the first exhibition of paintings to be held in Somerset House’s Deadhouse, a series of hidden, atmospheric light-wells and chambers which contain the gravestones of 17th century nobility beneath the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court.
Night Paintings reveals the artist’s deep interest in the intangible world we see beyond the mirror. His allegorical paintings are inspired by a long tradition of artists including Goya, Rembrandt and Velázquez, whose art – whether allegorical, religious or historical – flourished alongside their works of portraiture, the one informing, shaping and redefining the other.
The exhibition sees Benney return to painting the shamanistic presences which have long preoccupied him, introducing us to people who dwell in mysterious hinterlands, who belong in places that lie somewhere between the earthbound and the transcendent. He paints figures which, while their meanings can never quite be fixed, embody some sense of our spiritual quest.
“The sense of mystery that feels ever-present in Benney’s paintings fits perfectly with the wonderfully atmospheric and undiscovered depths of Somerset House,” says Flora.
Paul Benney lives and works in London. His portraiture and allegorical work, which he refers to as his Night Paintings, are collected extensively worldwide and can be found within collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Portrait Gallery, London and The National Gallery, Canberra, Australia, The Eli Broad Foundation, Los Angeles and The Rothschild Foundation.
His private commissions include work for the Marquis of Bath, Lord Rothschild, Paul Getty III, the Sitwell family, the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover and Mick Jagger.
Deadhouse, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7845 4600 www.somersethouse.org.uk
Opening hours: 4 October – 9 December 2012, daily from 10.00 to 18.00