Will Bennett’s paintings feature alien-like neon green figures in strange, foreign, and almost religious settings. They might appear as something from a parallel universe, or at least a science-fiction movie. But the truth of their origin is not in another galaxy. Uneasy, and at times awkward, the paintings battle with authenticity, history, rewriting and reenacting moments from the past.
Polyester Soldiers Stitch Witches emerged from an innocent interest in the history of the colour purple, its ties to royalty and how Romans acquired purple pigment. From his research, Bennett stumbled upon Imperium Romana, a Roman reenactment group. The group reenacts displays of the Roman Empire within the New Zealand landscape. This rich online archive, combined with Bennett’s interest in UFOs, was a gateway into ideas he was already grappling with, such as memory, occupancy, and a disconnection with the land.
While Bennett is familiar with his family’s recent history since arriving in Aotearoa, he knows little about his family in the United Kingdom. Leaving him to question “What’s home?” Bennett acknowledges that sometimes he feels like the reenactors featured in his paintings, performing a hybrid history, looking into the past and not quite reaching authenticity. Perhaps the figures in Polyester Soldiers Stitch Witches are not the only aliens in a foreign landscape?
Will Bennett lives and paints in Wellington and completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) at Massey University Wellington in 2016. Bennett’s painting practice experiments with notions of the New Zealand Gothic, photography, memory, the ordinary everyday and moments from the past.
Bennett has had several solo and group exhibitions across Aotearoa. Recent exhibitions include: Always Forever Now, Summer Selection and One (Jhana Millers Gallery, 2019-2020); Burnt Bridge (Anderson Rhodes Gallery, 2019); and Gone with Makura (Precinct 35, 2017). Bennett was a finalist in the Adam Portrait Award at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in 2014.