Interview : Margaretann Bennett, Gothic actuality artist

UK artist Margaretann Bennett talks to Déshabillé about her extraordinary work, how her parents met at art college, and her views on Art Competitions.

Q. What or who sparked your interest in art?

I believe it undoubtedly comes from my parents, who met on their first day at The Glasgow School of Art. My father studied Drawing and Painting and my mother, Mural Decoration. Both had careers in teaching art, so I was surrounded in the landscape of that and simply took to drawing like a duck to water. 
As a child, pen and paper went everywhere with me as a matter of course and so I spent endless happy hours engrossed in the fantasy world created through my drawings.
It seemed inevitable that I would eventually follow my parents footsteps to The Glasgow School of Art, not because I expected or intented to have an art career, but because I could never imaging doing anything else and not ‘creating’.


Q. Im fascinated by the co-relation between the almost supernatural, gothic nature of your ghostly girls and that which is rooted in reality. How does your intuition play a part in this?

My intuition plays a fundamental part in my approach to my work and you’re right that there’s an element of reality in the mix. That reality comes from me and the people I surround myself with. I live a largely alternative lifestyle and draw inspiration from many subcultures. There are parts of me in every piece, combined with elements of alter ego and moods to match each on any given day. 
I’m fascinated by how we portray and imagine our outer persona as women; versus how others actually see us and who we actually really are. I enjoy working with twin images, where the relationship of the figures is ambiguous. At a glance they may look similar, but closer inspection of their facial nuances reveals differences or conflict. Are they good or bad? sweet natured or mean? or simply putting on a tough face because they’re a crumbling wreck inside?
As a rather sensitive natured person myself, I have felt all these emotions and more, and I’m somehow able to convey them effortlessly through my work.

The Muse's Chair 

Q. You've won many awards. Do you think it's important for an artist to enter competitions, and as the last interviewee Monika Ferris mentioned being out there?

The awards I’ve won have come largely from entering open submission national exhibitions run by established societies like The Royal Glasgow Institute for Fine Arts. 
There are many competitions run, on the other hand, by unscrupulous organisations who are cashing in on entry fees which they impose. 
I think artists should be wary of simply entering competitions for the sake of potentially ‘winning’, and instead focus on creating good work which they can promote themselves through social media. Be ‘out there’ yes you have to as we live in extremely competitive times, but good work will speak for itself at the end of the day.

Q. Who are your own influences ?

First and foremost, I’d have to say my father… as he taught me the importance of sound drawing, being self critical and the importance of not losing touch with ones subject matter.
My influences from modern painting would have to include Schiele, Picasso, Braque and the expressionists. 
I love the photography of Joel Peter Witkin and the animation of the Quay brothers. There’s an enchanting darkness in both which greatly appeals to me.
I also enjoy illustration. I adore the drawings of Victor Ambrus, Arthur Rackham and Ronald Searle.


 Q. What are your future plans?

I’m very excited about my future work, as I feel I’ve finally reached a stage where I’m being true to myself. Alongside developing larger scale paintings, I’ve been revisiting my drawing and technique. It’s always been important for me to never stand still stylistically and yet always to retain my individual ‘voice’… it’s one of the most difficult things for an artist to do.
In addition to this I plan to more fully develop the narrative in my paintings. I have established MY characters and the stage is set for the stories to truly begin.

Exhibiton wise, I have a solo show scheduled for Autumn 2018 at Smithy Gallery in Glasgow, final dates to be confirmed.

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