Douglas Bentham: The Tablets
With an international reputation for large scale sculpture spanning more than four decades, The Tablets represents the Saskatoon-based sculptors’ first full-fledged gallery installation. The Tablets presents a collection of metal assemblages of richly textured bronze and brass panels constructed from an array of salvaged materials, an homage to memory and monumentality, language and culture.
In conversation with Douglas Bentham about his arts practice and The Tablets specifically, one is struck by distinct dichotomies in the way that he describes his process and yet how all the facets circle back into a symbiotic circle. There is a sensitivity and spirituality at play within his artistic slant, a reverence for the natural world and recognition of human nature and frailty, and yet the materials he chooses, brass and bronze, possess difficult qualities and are challenging mediums to use. The aim is to create something that adds to the beauty and perfection of what exists. At the same time Bentham embodies the pragmatism and mastery of a constructivist sculptor and craftsman, fifty years in the making, and lurking underneath it all is the harbouring of a “closet architect “. The work does have architectural flourishes and feels almost Brutalist in approach with its block construction and raw edges. The work evokes the concepts and construction-laden ideals that are found within Process art “where the process of its making is not hidden but remains a prominent aspect of the completed work, so that a part or even the whole of its subject is the making of the work” (Tate). The unabashed welds and wide-open scaffolding of The Tablets speak to an artist unafraid of grand gestures and intuitive response, which are products of his second nature dexterity, and happenstantial salvage and collage approach; prairie gothic art of imperfection.
The Tablets evoke a visceral response in the viewer, as if a memory or dream has a part in ones understanding of what they are seeing. The sculptures are about language and culture and honoring and acknowledgement; the beautiful and chaotic amalgamation of invention. The fractured names and symbols and embellishments tell a story of time and language and the lives of people both lost and found, but very much in the light of these creations. The artist describes this as “a celebration of life/lives bought together into compensates of personal/universal histories.” The frozen sheaves of wheat that somehow manage to wave in warm breezes of memory, like the pieces of chain and flowers and truncated text, are all incorporated into a complex narrative that speak to people and place, beauty and artistic expression.
The works are loaned by The Art Gallery of Swift Current on behalf of Mr. John Mann.
Visit the artist’s website at https://douglasbentham.com