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John Moore Prize Winner paints special exhibition for Frome Gallery

Painter Michael Bennett, who has twice won one of the art world’s most prestigious prizes, is bringing a solo show of his latest work to Frome’s Black Swan Arts Centre.

Michael, who lives in Frome, is well known for his adoption of the tree as his ‘reason to make paintings’ and his latest exhibition, created especially with the Black Swan gallery in mind, will show ensembles of his latest tree paintings as large rectangular arrays.

The free exhibition, which runs from 8 September until 13 October, is the first in an 18-month programme for the Frome arts space organised by a new programming committee.

The six-strong group members are using their connections and knowledge to entice well-known artists to exhibit in the gallery, bringing new opportunities to enjoy different art forms to a local audience.

“We’re very lucky that someone of Michael’s calibre, who has won the John Moore Painting Prize twice, has agreed to show his work at the Black Swan and be the opening exhibition for what we hope will be an exciting and stimulating programme at the gallery,” said exhibition curator Clive Walley.

“One of Michael’s recent works has also been chosen to be a featured postcard promoting the Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition. More than 11,000 artworks are submitted to go on show so for Michael’s painting to be singled out and featured in this way is really quite something. So it just goes to show what a coup it is for us that an artist at this level is now putting on an exhibition in what is a very small and intimate gallery space.

“Michael is well-known for his adoption of the tree as his ‘reason to make paintings’. They’re not real trees and don’t derive from any particular trees, rather their origins lie more in the painter's imagination which is deeply informed by the art of landscape painting in the Western tradition; memories of Corot and Constable and perhaps the atmosphere and light of Turner.

“The move to the tree as motif has liberated a romantic spirit in Michael which is best appreciated first from the initial impression - the sheer glory of the ensembles which will be on display - and secondly from individual inspection of the single pictures.

“A world of subtle difference opens up when you look carefully, and in the time it takes to look at them like this the viewer is reminded of a way of registering differences in colour, surface and intention, which lies at the heart of the contemporary language of painting.”

The Black Swan’s new programming committee brings together local artists who are using their knowledge and connections to bring bigger names to the gallery. Chaired by Tristan Stevens, the group also includes Clive Walley, Tim Mercer, Sonja Klingler, Mark Stephens and Kim Wood.

They plan to incorporate interviews, video installations and seminars with each exhibition to offer visitors a richer experience when they visit which it is hoped will deepen the value of the exhibitions to the local community.

Michael Bennett has exhibited at London’s Royal Academy, Hayward Gallery and Serpentine Gallery as well as winning the John Moore's Painting Prize twice. His paintings are also in the collections at New York’s Chase Manhattan Bank, the British Arts Council, and various private collections worldwide.

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