Gallery

Sorcerer’s Cupboard

Douglas Bentham’s new Cupboards series, in rich, galvanized plate steel, is reminiscent in form to the antique handmade furniture the artist has collected over decades. Held within the vitrine-like sections is an assembly of eccentric linear drawing comprised of forgings, ancient hand tools and encrusted foundry castoffs. A mirroring effect is created as the viewer’s eye moves from section to section to the  whole.

Sorcerer's Cupboard

Spanish Voices

As I began working on this series, I recognized the possibilities of creating bold, linear forms with a certain primitive feel, which could become containers for coloured planar inserts of a painterly nature. One quality of the sculptures that repeatedly emerged was a fullness, at once both generous and casual, that reminded me of my experiences visiting Spain, of its vivid landscape, people and culture, and of the remarkable artists whose voices we still hear.

Gates Series

This new series, in burnished stainless steel, has developed since the completion of the commissioned sculpture for Northridge Developments. The original work was designed to incorporate a stylized image, drawn from the company’s logo, as a lintel above a gate-like opening.

Gate II, PompeiiGate III, Palmyra

Palace at Midnight

Origins

Douglas Bentham incorporates random scraps of metal into form and framework and skeletal structure, similar to the evolution of the human body—its bits of meteorite, mud, and water. The wonder is that, in both the human body and Bentham sculptures, unrelated pieces are intricately fitted together to work in striking unity. Bentham sculptures reveal the patterns in which these scattered elements were meant to join. These forms are their story.

Earle Toppings, March 2010

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Tablets Series

Although the artist plans to show the Centurions as a group eventually, the Tablets represents Bentham’s first full-fledged museum installation. These tablet-scaled works hark back to the Doors, where each work’s own materiality, its scale and flux of front/back, back/front offers a kind of psychological interior in the viewer’s imagination.

The thirty-nine sculptures are to be displayed on identical plinths in staggered rows, offering viewers an opportunity to walk among them at will, in either a rectangular or diagonal orientation.

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Reliquaries

The sculptures, then, take their shape around a hidden presence. Like armour, they ward off a grasping gaze. Like reliquaries, they enshrine an unseen holy thing, an unnameable beauty within.
Timothy Long

From Emma Lake, 1985: Passages

The ten sculptures in the Passages series were executed at the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshop in 1985 under the tutelage of workshop leader Tim Scott, a highly respected abstract sculptor from London, UK. This group of ground-oriented works was assembled from random chunks of preformed metal, salvaged from derailed railway tank cars.

Mudras

When Bentham visited the John East Ironworks he was perhaps predisposed to a discovery of materials that promised new formal possibilities for his art. There, he found piles of discarded foundry equipment: long-handled ‘shovels’ for skimming the dross, ladles for the molten metal, pouring spouts, sprues, vents and all the pieces broken from the product after casting. In these unlikely objects he sensed a new direction for his art—with time, the steel tools used to manipulate the molten iron had undergone fantastic change. As the cups of the ladles, the heads of the shovels and portions of the handles were repeatedly dipped into the molten metal, they were coated with iron, which steadily accumulated in successive layers about the underlying form.…Bentham recognised in these objects the formal means for linear sculptural composition, drawing in space. These were of a more-or-less consistent thickness, and had richly textured masses of various shapes. At the same time, he responded to their expressive character, to the suggestions of gesture in their linear configurations, and to the delicacy and fragility of their surfaces. They were, as well, evocative of time and the processes behind their eventual form.

Victoria Baster
From catalogue essay, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, 1985

From Emma Lake, 1989

His new work pushes abstract sculpture towards the Baroque. Nevertheless, the pieces are organized—governed, by their own sculptural architecture. This architecture inclines to cage-like configurations characterized by curved rods and tubes containing curved plates and volumes. The pieces rise off the ground in a variety of ways, sometimes upon platforms that become surrogates for the floor rather than bases or plinths. These platforms don’t hold the sculpture aloft in the traditional sense. They’re part of the visual universe of each work rather than a separate element. They’re something like abstract “stages” which help to separate and isolate the configurations. The platforms keep them apart; they insist that the sculpture is designed to be looked at rather than physically entered.

The curved “drawing” which composes them has two aspects: it draws sinuous “dancing” arabesques in the air and it draws around and contains space. In the first aspect it draws within and penetrates space. In the second, it draws “around” space, creating transparent shaped and volumes.

These two aspects of linear drawing are augmented by the insertion of plates, cones and cylinders. Here Bentham gains variety by playing off transparent shapes (drawn with rods and thin pipes) against these opaque solids. These rather musical compositions play upon the relations between the explicit and the implicit, in effect blurring the distinctions between the two. Solids become illusory. Spaces become substantial. The various parts set up echoes and rhythms within the piece, much like echoes and rhythms do in music or poetry.

Terry Fenton
From catalogue essay, National Exhibition Centre, Swift Current, 1991