Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 2, No. 2, 2003

  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dube
Phil Nixon
Mark Goldfarb
Robert Rotondo
  Music Editor
Emanuel Pordes
  Arts Editor
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Robert Fisk
Pico Iyer
Mark Kingwell
Arundhati Roy
John Lavery
David Solway
Tariq Ali
Rochelle Gurstein



From the Archangel Series to Ab Ovo

by Marissa de Consiglieri de Chackal


Guy BensonGuy Benson was born in Point St-Charles, Quebec. He has studied art binding, graphic art, drawing and illustration. In 1972, he began working as an artist in what he calls a "logical succession of studies and technical findings." He has exhibited in both Canada and the United States at: Intercités, Repentigny, Quebec, Galerie Gora, Montreal, Main Street Gallery, Maine, USA, to mention a few; and won the 2nd Prize "Public's Choice" in Montreal (1988). He makes his home and pursues his artistic career in Repentigny, Quebec.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Motivation: the exploration of the components of the painted matter
for what it offers the artist and for what it permits the artist to reveal.
Guy Benson

Guy Benson: Ab Ovo VII, oil on canvas

I met Guy Benson by chance one afternoon and he showed me the images of his Archangels' Series. They left quite an impression on me and gave me the desire to see them first hand. I went to meet Benson in his studio one afternoon with the idea that seeing him in his working surroundings would give me a better understanding of the artist and his work. After two or three hours of lively conversation, I realized I was speaking with a man who is not only a good artist but who is also highly cultured and a philosopher.

Benson is an honest painter who believes in making a valuable contribution to society as an artist. He believes that, fundamentally, creative people cannot escape what they are. According to him, artists are individuals endowed with intelligence, conscience and spirituality. These dimensions of their personality inevitably manifest themselves in the artists' creations. Benson acknowledges that education, environment, knowledge and the times we live in play a part in conditioning artists. Nevertheless, he states, the artist creates freely and authenticity is a matter of conscience. He goes on to say, conscience is the guarantor of integrity in the same way assiduity and perseverance are guarantors of skill. At the same time, he admits that we live in a society in which integrity and authenticity in art are often ridiculed or manipulated solely for commercial reasons. "The responsibility of preserving them (integrity and authenticity) rests upon us, artists."

Despite the fact that Guy Benson has studied graphic design, publicity drawing and illustration, he describes himself as self-taught. And although at the beginning I had certain doubts about accepting this assertion, I now understand and accept it.

Benson declares that his inspiration has its sources in the scientific and artistic heritage bequeathed by the creators of past centuries. And he adds, "Mystified by the ancient artists who practiced drawing and painting, I have tried to capture the enigma." Thus, Benson takes on a movement and/or an artist as a project and begins his in-depth study.

The Archangels' Series, 1990-1998 - named in the original French Études Archangéliques, is an outstanding example of the aforementioned process. In this series, Guy Benson takes the Baroque style and more precisely the traits of Michelangelo Merisi, called il Caravaggio, to create a series of five works depicting archangels to whom the artist gives the names of five human qualities and emotional states: Sérénité (Serenity), Compassion (Compassion), Abandon (Abandonment), Volonté (Will), Douleur (Pain).

Archangels Series: Sérénité Archangels Series: Compassion Archangels Series: Abandon Archangels Series: Volonté Archangels Series: Douleur

The painter skilfully executes the chiaroscuro in order to emphasize the intensity of the figures depicted in these works; his ability to master Baroque technique is evident.

Douleur - Detail

Furthermore, Benson takes his exercise into a deeper area, thus capturing the characteristics which set the unruly Caravaggio apart from all other masters of the Baroque period: first, the psychological realism imprinted in his images and second, the portrayal of religious subject matter and personae as every day life events and characters. Although Benson's archangels are devoid of any religious content, we must recognize the significance of the artist's selected presentation of the figures as angels and down to earth humans. Benson's high-ranking angels are bestowed with wings and, hence, they have a celestial nature; however, the wings are so cumbersome their intrinsic celestial attributes are a burden rather than aerie appendages that move easily. The psychological state of the figures is emphasized by their pose and facial expression. Case in point, it is hard to stand before Douleur in all its imposing size without being deeply touched by the almost tangible sadness reflected in the eyes of this angel.

This sadness is revealed in the pose of the angel and subtly emphasized by the actual modelling of the figure. This is visible in the angular shapes of the body and the colouring of the skin. In contrast with the darker shadowy parts, pale tones show through the blue/grey veins of the legs. The pallid color of the skin is accentuated by highlights which contribute to its fragile transparency. The same blue/grey color of the veins is used to create the shadows in the veil; thus, the artist unifies figure and drapery. Undoubtedly, this painting, which by the artist's own admission may very well be a self-portrait, expresses a deep sense of isolation and longing for human contact and warmth.

Guy Benson: Douleur - detail

Today Guy Benson is working on another series, the Ab Ovo, which is a literary term describing the practice of beginning a narrative at the earliest possible chronological point.

Ab Ovo II, sketch Ab Ovo I, sketch Ab Ovo III, sketch

Ab Ovo is an ambitious project of 24 paintings depicting the basic ovoid shape. As seen in one of the sketches, twelve of these paintings will be created in a rectangular shaped canvas, the other twelve in a hexagonal one. The medium is oil. The corners of each work will feature an ornament of embossed copper as shown in another sketch. The egg in the centre of the composition is created in contrast to the freer and more diffused forms in the background. Inside it, double helix forms, different cellular forms and other basic shapes are used to create different motifs. This is an approach utilizing forms related to the simplest and most elemental organic shapes. Although I do not believe the

Guy Benson: Ab Ovo II, oil on canvas Guy Benson: Ab Ovo VII, detail

artist is trying to create the pictorial equivalent to a narrative at the earliest possible chronological point, I find his choice of subject and the title of the series quite telling. The final product will be a set of purely decorative objects but the selection of their pure essential forms demonstrates an internal search, the search for Guy Benson.

Benson sees this adventure as a vehicle to continue his research of the art of painting. I see it as a creative research through elemental shapes guided by the clarity and logic in their relationships. But, more importantly and without taking away any of the creative and artistic value from the Ab Ovo series, I see it as a sort of pause, a very valid dilettante's exercise, a very personal and instinctive exploration of the artist's own identity.

In a way, Guy Benson has already given an indication of this identity in his work Douleur d'aimer - géopolitique of 1992; a transitional painting executed after the conception of the Archangels' Series and before the Ab Ovo series.

Guy Benson: La douleur d'aimer - géopolitique, oil on canvas

In this painting Benson communicates his essence as painter/creator. He declares that humanism is not out of fashion. He embraces the challenge of producing works of art which are cultural manifestations and products of an environment in which history, philosophy, literature, science, political circumstances, social reality and geographic location all play a role.

In the Ab Ovo series, as in the Archangels' Series, Guy Benson's great ability as draftsman, colorist and master of all the nuances of painting is evident. The Ab Ovo could mark a starting point and I am looking forward to seeing its completion. Partly because I would like to see the final result of this interesting project and I am anxious to see its impact on the painter’s aesthetic vocabulary. Mainly, because I hope that, after Av Ovo, Guy Benson will put aside his research work and will apply all his creative ability to the development and fulfillment of his unique artistic identity.

Editor's note: To find more about the artist or to get in touch with him, please write to, to the attention of Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal - Arts Editor.


E-Tango Creative Web Design
Core-Net Computer Services
Couleur JAZZ 91.9
Caribbean Report
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis