21 January 2024
Leonard Benson is one of Tasmania’s grand painters.
Through the faces of the women he depicts Leonard Benson’s Modernist works tell a tale of loves won and lost. With complex sophisticated colour we see features drawn with an elegant line that removes unnecessary detail, allowing the bright smear of a hastily applied lipstick to counterpoint brimming eyes.
The chalky oils are mixed into complex greys to background intense saturated colour. Surfaces are thickly textured showing the painting technique of a process based painter who adds layers until the work is done. Like a balanced equation there is a real satisfaction in the pictorial symmetry of each composition where the thickened line or the red strip pulls it all together in an audacious fashion.
Leonard Benson was a draughtman with the public service before he studied painting with Danish artist Kurt Olssen. The influence of Amedeo Modigliani is clear from the elongated forms but we can also see the social realism of Noel Counihan, the reductionism of Piet Mondrian and the facetted angularity of John Brack. All these formal antecedents are secondary to Leonards own vision however, as a documenter of love, its perils and joys , its beauties and loss.