Stephen Benwell, Vase 2011 porcelain 18 x 19 x 18cm
We cannot predict the future, but even undertanding how the past affects the present remains a mystery for most of us without degrees in psychology. Yet still we want to know what is in store and thus we consult the oracles. In the modern world this is less likely to be a priest of Apollo, and more likely the daily horoscope or latest fashion blog.
There is a suggestion in Benwell's exhibition title, walking to oracles, that it is the journey that may provide the key to enlightenment, and that what we find there is going to be coloured by our experiences and/or our expectations rather than a revelation direct from the gods.
Benwell's interest in the classical has been evident in recent exhibitions. As the recipient of the 2010 Sidney Myer Ceramic Award he created, literally, a showcase of the ancient - objects and detritis exhibited in hermetic museum cases. A disassembled civilisation on display.
The current body of work continues to draw on classical humanist themes. The familiar form of pots, vases and dishes are painted with vignettes of landscape and figure. The surfaces are filled with colour, perhaps darker and denser than previously. A series of eight panel paintings are a combination of modernist portraiture and decorative montage and create an unexpected yet satisfying whole.
Benwell has developed a technique of overpainting his ceramic surfaces: erasing, layering and superscribing to create a palimipsest over new and existing forms - las if he is re-writing the history of the object. He has taken this a step further with some of the new statues - re-assembling (sometimes purposefully) broken bodies into his own version of classic perfection.
In 2013, Heide Museum of Modern Art will present a comprehensive survey of Benwell's work and we will have the opportunity to see the progression of the potter to painter, and ceramicist to sculptor. I predict that this will be one of the highlights of the coming year.
The exhibition is available for viewing on the website. Please contact the gallery for a complete list of works and prices or to arrange a preview prior to the opening.