• Faiq Imran

Maria José Benvenuto – Ecstatic, Evocative, Ethereal


Blue composition © Maria José Benvenuto


Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of “Green?” How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? How aware of variations in heat waves can the eye be? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable gradations of color. Imagine a world before the “beginning was the word.”


Stan Brakhage in ‘Metaphors on Visions’


The first thing you’ll notice about Maria José’s work is the richness of tone and vibrancy of the colors. The brush strokes swim against each other as if in a trance. It must be this exuberance of spirit that compels the whirling Sufis. As noticeable in ‘Green Strokes’ and ‘Overlapping Green Strokes’, she is a fan of whirling as well. A soothing melody of green strokes wraps itself within itself. In ‘Orange Strokes’, a sea of oranges is peeled onto the canvass.

She mostly paints with acrylics and feels it yields the best results, “I had always love researching and exploring on new techniques, but through the technique of painting I feel comfortable in creating because I have a deep study on it, I had explored a lot on different types of paints and surfaces, but the acrylic on canvas or paper gave me the opportunity to achieve my results in the best way”.


Windows view 2 © Maria José Benvenuto


In composition, her ‘Color Strokes I, II, & III’ and ‘Overlapping Strokes I & II’ are reminiscent of Malevich’s Supremacist paintings but they are miles apart in conduct. Whereas the shapes and forms of Malevich’s work define themselves resolutely against the background, coercing the viewer into submission by condescension; Maria’s forms define themselves against themselves, inviting submission by ecstasy. But, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes the work veers into cold and frosty, even bleak; making full use of the grayscale to explore desolation.


Blue strokes © Maria José Benvenuto


Maria grew up in Santiago de Chile and studied Visual Arts at the Catholic University of Chile. She has made 4 solo exhibitions and has participated in several group exhibitions. She has also participated in several international art fairs such as Aqua Art Fair, Miami, Scope Basel Switzerland, and Sydney Contemporary, Sydney. In 2018, she moved to Australia. The move profoundly changed the outlook of her artistic endeavors.


Orange stroke © Maria José Benvenuto


In NSW, Australia, she is represented by M Contemporary Gallery and is preparing the pieces for her next solo show in July. Nowadays, as she looks out of the window of her studio onto Sydney’s Northern Beaches, she renders the landscape quite differently than her hometown in Chile. ‘Windows View II’ is a testament to this change, “Through the years my paintings have gone through considerable changes depending on the emotional feelings of my life. I have always been traveling and my last trip from Chile to Australia, where I reside nowadays, has influenced my painting and it has changed a lot since we moved here. In Australia, things are different than in Latin America. Here there is a large variety of landscapes, ocean everywhere and extensive layers of green foliage surround my studio and home”. ‘Back to Santiago’ emphasis the gravity of this move even more.


Magenta thick layers © Maria José Benvenuto


The work is always mystifying but it is not just that. The image owes its influence to a ton of observation, no matter how abstract it ends up being. Take a look at ‘Over the City’, ‘Focus and Horizon’, ‘Mountain’, and ‘The City’, and the influence of the figurative landscape reveals itself rapidly. It may be fragmented, distorted, and reduced to its essentials (whatever they may be) but it exists nevertheless. You may not be able to trace it all the way back but you can certainly try, “My influences and inspirations are everywhere, they come from a little detail of an object, to the entire landscape, I like to pay attention to every single visual image of my daily life, the contrasts, the colors, the compositions, the light, the movements of everything that surrounds me, such as the clouds, the foliage, etc. I think that's why my creations are constantly varying and being very intuitive, sometimes simple in terms of colors and composition but yet complex.”


But, there are a lot of works where you cannot reach the influence or anything cerebral. This includes most of her 2021 collection in which works like ‘Three Elements’, ‘Two Green Elements’, ‘Five Strokes’, ‘Blue over Blue’, ‘Green, Yellow and Blue’ extend abstraction to exquisite and hypnotic extremes.


Head on over to www.mariajosebenvenuto.com to discover Maria’s work or check out her Instagram.