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1 June to 30 November 2008

Stella Benjamin lives surrounded by the work of Bryan Illsley, paintings, wooden and iron sculptures - from his first wooden figures to a painting he gave he in 2002. She weaves on a loom he made her from pine branch wood nearly 30 years ago. When she first saw the bundle of sticks they seemed so powerful - ‘I remember thinking I hope I am up to them.’

She worked with Bryan and Breon O'Casey before she started to weave and shares Bryan’s natural ability with materials and a direct response in the way he uses them. Although her work is very slow to produce she allows the finished rug a freshness as though it composed itself. Bryan, working almost immediately, similarly catches the act of creation and makes it timeless. The ‘empty’ early canvases with paint in the corners and sometimes divided with a scratched cross have suggestions of later rugs by Stella.

Bryan ennobles the poorest of materials - discarded wood off-cuts, used pieces of metal, lining paper, cardboard - and mixing his own paint from amongst other things - soot and clay - creates very direct images and sculptures that are strongly influenced by Russian Constructivism but totally his own. Bryan has referred to ‘creation demanding destruction’ and with his recent paintings he increasingly deconstructs the constructive layouts of earlier works and his ability with line is free-er and wilder and more hopeful.

Stella says her response to his work is ‘intuitive, emotional, without words’ and of the work she lives with ‘they all have their place and presence, I see them without looking.’

The Trustees are very grateful to Bryan and the other lenders of early sculptures.

Anthony Shaw

Press release

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