Antony Benjamin (1931-2002) was a British abstract painter, but whose work and style was forever changing.
Benjamin moved from Paris to St. Ives in 1956, living in a small cottage that had once belonged to Sven Berlin. He went away for a year in 1958-1959 on a French Government fellowship, allowing him to study printmaking with S W Hayter at Atelier 17, before returned to St Ives in 1959. Benjamin and his wife Stella lived quite a bohemian lifestyle, and travelled into town on a horse.
In 1959 Antony Benjamin shared a studio at Porthmeor with Trevor Bell, while Francis Bacon was working in a neighbouring studio. When Bacon left St Ives, Bacon’s companion Ron Belton handed Benjamin many of Bacon’s unresolved canvases. In later years Benjamin speculated on the value and importance of Bacon’s work that underlay some of his own work in his time at Porthmeor Studios.
Like Patrick Heron and Terry Frost, Benjamin’s work investigated the emotion of colour and form that reflected the harsh, romantic Cornish landscape. His paintings became more colourful, helped by the emerging prominence of American and Cornish expressionist movement.
In Cornwall, Benjamin met a young Canadian artist, Nancy Patterson. In 1960, he was awarded an Italian government fellowship, and the two lived in Italy before moving to London the following year. They remained lifelong companions.Benjamin earned his first one man show at the Obelisk Gallery in 1960 on the strength of his work produced at Porthmeor.
In the early 1970s Benjamin became friends with Brian Eno, who at that time was involved with Roxy Music. Benjamin was fascinated with Eno’s development with synthesizers and started to produce a series of work that combined colour and sound.
Text: Ben Crack