Artist profile - Kate Bentley

PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 March 2020

Kate Bentley at work in her studio at Brigsteer in the Lyth Valley

Kate Bentley at work in her studio at Brigsteer in the Lyth Valley

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Artist Kate Bentley found new ways of working during her time at John Ruskin’s former home at Coniston.

Collaboration by Kate BentleyCollaboration by Kate Bentley

The 18 months-or-so that Kate Bentley spent as artist in residence at John Ruskin’s house didn’t pan out as she had expected.

When the former Lancashire Life Landscape Artist of the Year began her spell at Brantwood, she thought she would be drawn to the gardens and the views across Coniston Water, but it tuned out she found more inspiration inside the house.

‘I used the interiors and the furniture a lot,’ she said as she prepared to launch an exhibition of work created during her time in residence there. ‘I found I was fascinated by the reflections in the windows and picture frames.

‘In some of my paintings, I have used a chair to represent Ruskin. And I have brought the outdoors inside - there is a huge fern collection at Brantwood and I have used ferns and trees in some of the pieces. I have done a couple of paintings with him in and it would have been easier to paint him each time because I got a bit fed up with painting that chair.’

Ruskin's Chair by Kate BentleyRuskin's Chair by Kate Bentley

The residency gave Kate, an award-winning landscape painter, an opportunity to try new and more contemporary techniques.

‘My son is at art college in Dundee and listening to him talk about contemporary practises made me realise I needed to catch up,’ she said. ‘I have used projectors, screen printing, photography and I have printed on acetate. It’s nothing too mad, but it’s different for me. Some of the new techniques I will use again, some I won’t. Screen printing over oil paintings seems to work quite well. You see the work in a new light and it adds dynamic new shapes to the original painting.’

Kate was bought up in Morecambe and Arnside and, after studying sculpture and theatre design, she returned to the area to raise her family. She is now based at Brigsteer in the Lyth Valley. During the residency, she was influenced by Ruskin’s relationship with Turner and has used a lot of Turner’s colours in the paintings which will be on show in the Ruskin’s Reverie exhibition.

Among the new techniques Kate developed is a series of 15 small boxes made up of layers of glass, acetate and prints. ‘They’re two inches deep and there’s some illusion going on and reflections,’ she said. ‘Ruskin’s life was a number of layers - he was a philosopher, philanthropist, writer, artist and more, a real polymath - so this seemed like a suitable response.

‘This won’t be a full-stop on my Ruskin work, I think it will continue for a bit. For the last 18 months or so I haven’t been able to go off on a tangent but now I can. There have been days when I have wanted to get away from him but I think he’ll probably stay with me for some time now.’

Kate Bentley’s ‘Ruskin’s Reverie’ exhibition was due to run at Brantwood until May 10th until the government restrictions regarding COVID-19 came itno place, but you can see more of her work, on her website at katebentley.co.uk. For more about Brantwood events and opening times, visit brantwood.org.uk.

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